South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Durban December 25, 2011

Sri Lanka need a Christmas miracle


Match facts

December 26-30, Durban
Start time 10:00 (08:00GMT)

The Big Picture

For a team that has almost always been near the summit of the Test rankings, South Africa's recent home record is surprisingly ordinary - no series wins in more than three years. Their performances at Kingsmead in that period are similarly bleak - losing to each of the other major contenders for the title of world's best Test team. Graeme Smith and his side get the chance to erase both those blots this week as they take on a disjointed Sri Lanka.

After subsiding for below 200 in both innings of the first Test, the Sri Lanka batsmen won't be overly thrilled at the sight of a green-tinged track. In a bid to bolster the batting, Sri Lanka are mulling bringing in highly rated wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal in place of Kaushal Silva, who hasn't had the best of times in his three matches as replacement for regular gloveman Prasanna Jayawardene.

The number that is becoming synonymous with discussions about the decline of Sri Lankan cricket is the number of Tests they have gone without a victory since the retirement of their greatest player, Muttiah Muralitharan, last year. That now stands at 15, but almost as worrying is that in only two of those matches have Sri Lanka managed to bowl out the opposition twice.

Adding to the troubles on the field, are the many problems off it. A bankrupt board which is struggling to pay player salaries, and has indefinitely postponed its domestic matches. To top it off was the confusion in communication - their captain Tillakaratne Dilshan's announcement that fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara will join the squad was over-ruled a few days later by the sports ministry. All of which means Sri Lanka will need a Christmas miracle to pull off a victory in Durban.

Form guide

(Most recent first)

South Africa WLWDL
Sri Lanka LDLDD

Watch out for...

Thilan Samaraweera boasts a career average of 52.20 after playing as many as 69 Tests. But he doesn't get the respect that others with similar figures do because of his average record overseas, particularly against top teams like England, Australia and India. A big contribution on a tough Kingsmead track against a world-class South Africa attack will be a fitting riposte to his detractors.

Jacques Rudolph revived a seemingly dead South Africa career with a wagon-load of domestic runs this year, but he hasn't been able to carry that form to the Test level. With no half-century in three Tests, the selectors could be tempted to bring back Alviro Petersen if there are more failures. Petersen himself was axed after a relatively short fallow period, and his recall to the squad for the series sends a message to Rudolph.

Team news

South Africa will be waiting on Vernon Philander's fitness after he injured his knee during training, but it seems likely he will play. If he doesn't, Lonwabo Tsotsobe is the likely replacement, provided he has recovered fully from a side strain which has sidelined him since early November. If not, South Africa will have to call on a reserve - Marchant de Lange could make his debut. Smith has said that "ideally the team will stay the same."

South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Jacques Rudolph, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Dilshan has hinted that Chandimal will play in place of Kaushal Silva and it's expected that Thisara Perera will sit out for Dhammika Prasad.

Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Dilhara Fernando, 11 Chanaka Welegedara

Pitch and conditions

Durban has usually been a fast bowler's delight, and it is expected to have plenty of swing this time round as well, so don't count on a high-scoring draw. The bowlers will relish the green pitch and overcast conditions and the only downer is the mid-week rain that is predicted.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka are the only team against which Jacques Kallis hasn't scored a Test century
  • If Chandimal is picked, he will be Sri Lanka's eighth Test debutant this year, the most since 1999
  • In Tests between the two countries, Muttiah Muralitharan has 104 wickets - that's more than twice the next highest, Shaun Pollock with 48

For a full stats analysis, click here.


"The wicket looks like it should go more than three days, unless one team puts up their hand and plays unbelievable cricket. It will be a good Test wicket with something for both bat and ball and something to play for over five days for a change."
AB de Villiers hopes for a Test match that lasts the distance

"I remember facing Mfuneko Ngam, who was the quickest bowler I had faced. It was a Test match that we fought hard to draw."
Kumar Sangakkara recalls the 2000 Durban Test, the only one Sri Lanka have not lost in South Africa

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ridma on December 26, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    this looks like a 400+ wicket

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    Good luck Sri Lanka. Get it back on the track

  • Amol on December 26, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Rana: I don't know why u, a PAK-fan, are needlessly dragging IND, into an SA-SRL Match preview. Ask the South Africans who are the toughest opponents from the Sub-continent. They would say: IND. The last time IND were in SA, IND drew the SERIES (NOT just a Match). How many teams actually manage that? Meanwhile what did PAK did? In order to boost their overall falsely built status, they set a series against SA in Abu Dhabi and since PAK are NOT confident of even their bowling now, created the flattest of roads as pitches where, Steyn, Marshall, Donald, Walsh, Holding, Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Roberts, McGrath ALL TOGETHER could NEVER get 10 wickets in an single innings & here was Steyn laboring alone most times. That was the last time Steyn went without a wicket in an innings. That does not mean Steyn failed. That only means the pitches were sub-standard. Look who's talking about doctored pitches. If IND wins abroad they have altered pitches ??? LOL. PAK-SL-fans are a joke.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    The Srilanka team is still rebuilding and the financial status of the cricket board is not helping at all by holding back salaries and, there are political issues with player selection. The captain is irresponsible The batsman must dig deep and fight hard to survive this supreme seam attack and they dont even seem to be prepared to do that The inexperienced bowling attack is trying hard but the batsmen give them no chance with these horrible scores. These are the reasons for the teams recent loss To overcome these problems Dilshan must lead from the front as a captain and the top six have to show much more responsibility and apply themselves like PROFESSIONAL cricketers who show at least a purpose of surviving when the ball is swinging.

  • ahmir on December 26, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    @Mahesh Dushmantha , Dilshan is a closed chapter now. I dont think he can get any better now. The best thing for him now is to retire from all forms of the game if not all but at least tests, with respect.

  • ahmir on December 26, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Even if Sri Lanka would have toured with their best Test playing squad still there wouldn't have been any competition between South Africa and Sri Lanka. This series totally supports South Africa in every aspect, even the natural factors are in South Africa's favor.

  • Supun on December 26, 2011, 4:45 GMT

    I think Kaushal has already wasted his opportunities.he has not performed well in fielding and batting. Sri Lanka need Prasanna back soon. Paranavithana too has not proven his suitability as a solid opener. Still he could not convert his innings to a big hundreds.Dilhara is not getting wickets as usual. Its time to consider replacements for them too.

  • Hulk on December 26, 2011, 4:04 GMT

    Christmas miracle??? What a joke!! Don't expect miracles or rather upsets from minnows in Test Cricket.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2011, 3:15 GMT

    i thing very very good dishition for dinesh chandimal incluted this today SL batting linap very hight. i thing SL team today over 400 runs get

  • Nishani Lochna Madhumali on December 26, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    If there is a miracle also Sri Lankan team won't be able to save the game. Because their weaknesses are stronger than miracles. Nothing to argue. SL won't manage to score 200 runs. This is gonna be another huge victory for world class SA against ordinary SL team.

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