South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Johannesburg January 11, 2017

Pacer-friendly Wanderers may pose bigger problems for Sri Lanka


Match facts

January 12-16, 2017
Start time 1000 local (0800 GMT)

Big Picture

There was always the expectation the series would become incrementally tougher for Sri Lanka. In Port Elizabeth, there was supposed to be a low, slow pitch, but it was not nearly low or slow enough. At Newlands, instead of defusing seam movement on a greener-than-usual deck, Sri Lanka flailed their way to a defeat so enormous there is really no point recalling the exact margin. Now they have arrived at the Wanderers, where locals say, balls jump mischievously off lengths and do mocking high-speed orbits of South Asian batsmen, before seeking out the shoulder of their bats and leaping gaily into the gully fielder's embrace.

On the eve of this Test, Faf du Plessis spoke of ensuring there is no complacency in his outfit, throwing words like "ruthless" and "dominant" around. This is all very nice, but Sri Lanka could have done with a little South African overconfidence to charge them up. Something like: "Instead of going to nets after the second Test, we've been practicing our bum-patting in anticipation of how much of it we'll have to do over the next few days," might have worked nicely.

The hosts' major talking points ahead of this Test have not exactly been about the cricket they have played this series. Instead, they prepare to wish a happy hundredth to their bearded, presently-not-in-form, wrist-meister Hashim Amla. They are also dealing with the onset of the 'Kolpakalypse', which in this Test, takes the form of having to replace Kyle Abbott, who went to Hampshire to be able to pay for groceries.

If the surface is as savage as folks are suggesting (seriously, this pitch had apparently once kidnapped an entire top order and held them to ransom), Sri Lanka's major chance of victory may lie in rolling South Africa over cheaply, twice. That is not a totally outlandish proposition, given the heartening spells Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara have bowled. But, okay, it is almost an outlandish one.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWLWW
Sri Lanka LLWWW

Sri Lanka would hope Lahiru Kumara can repeat his performance from the Newlands Test if they are to trouble South Africa © AFP

In the spotlight

While Hashim Amla's lean trot has stretched for slightly longer, Temba Bavuma has been having a quietly modest series of his own, with scores of 3, 8, 10 and 0. He is clearly a player of quality, as his hundred against England and the 74 in Hobart lay out. But 16 matches into his Test career now, he will want to begin making a charge on that average, which presently sits at 31.42

Perhaps Sri Lanka fans owe a debt of gratitude to the kid who hit Lahiru Kumara on the head. Kumara had played hockey in his youth but was admitted to hospital one day after being struck by a stray stick. By the time he got home, his parents had thrown his hockey gear away and he was forced to switch to cricket, where he almost immediately proved himself a special talent. Possessing a mean bouncer, he could be a strike weapon for Sri Lanka on this pitch.

Teams news

Wayne Parnell will take Kyle Abbott's place in the XI, and South Africa may also consider playing four quicks, to the exclusion of Keshav Maharaj.

South Africa (possible): 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Stephen Cook, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt.), 6 Temba Bavuma, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Wayne Parnell, 10 Keshav Maharaj, 11 Kagiso Rabada

Sri Lanka will likely keep the same XI. There is an outside chance Dushmantha Chameera will replace Nuwan Pradeep, but that's only if Chameera has regained his rhythm, which was off in Port Elizabeth.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kaushal Silva, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 7 Upul Tharanga, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Lahiru Kumara, 10 Suranga Lakmal, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

Pitch and conditions

There is a dusting of green on the Wanderers surface, which suggests it will hold together nicely through the five days, and prevent Rangana Herath from becoming a major threat. There is a chance of rain on Friday and Saturday, but the forecast is good for the remaining days.

Stats and trivia

  • Rangana Herath needs six wickets in order to surpass Daniel Vettori's career tally of 362 and become the most successful left-arm spinner in Test history.

  • Hashim Amla's average against Sri Lanka is 33.46 - his worst against any opponent save for Zimbabwe, whom he has only played one innings against.

  • The last time Sri Lanka played at the Wanderers, in 2002, they lost by an innings and 64 runs.


"For me it's about being ruthless and trying to make sure that we're moving into a space as a team where we start to dominate. That's something we've spoken a lot about, and if you don't do it now in the third Test then you're just creeping back into old habits."
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis thinks his team has Sri Lanka by the collar, and doesn't want to let go

"He is very raw. He bowled extremely well. He can give you a few loose balls as well but he is very aggressive and we need players like that. We have Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal who can hold one end together, so we can attack a little bit more with Lahiru."
Angelo Mathews has words of praise for Lahiru Kumara

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • anilpr6034899 on January 12, 2017, 13:02 GMT

    Mathews has to take wickets consistently if he is the retain his place in the team,

  • Lalith on January 12, 2017, 8:38 GMT

    Very happy that Kusal Perera is dropped. He can improve T20 skills further.

  • khs on January 12, 2017, 7:53 GMT

    I noticed one thing before any match SL fans starts to cry and complaining that selection is not good, captain is not good vise versa . Is this their planning to hide the insult feeling after losing the match " make a bund before water comes" policy.

  • Srilankan on January 12, 2017, 7:50 GMT

    Is there no other batsmen in whole Sri Lanka to open the inning other than Dimuth and Kaushal. Roshan Mahanama at age 50 might do a better job.

  • Wesley on January 12, 2017, 7:47 GMT

    Parnell has 8 decent games is selected, Pretorius has a good season can't get selected.

  • Bhagya on January 12, 2017, 7:45 GMT

    Sri gonna loose this match..mainky coz of matthews n openers..also because of batting order..dhanjaya is number 3 n upul is opener n bring kjp at 7..u will see the difference

  • yogara8340483 on January 12, 2017, 7:22 GMT

    Sri Lanka should overcome the pace attack of SA at least on this 3rd and final test match. SL should show SA that some of the SL players still have more energy to challenge the world best pace bowling.Sri Lanka should make an impact on this match. All the best guys.

  • raj on January 12, 2017, 7:06 GMT

    If you are replacing Abbott with Parnell , that makes 7 non white players. Please give a chance for Theunis de Bruyn instead of Bavuma or Duminy, atleast in a dead rubber. This should also be Parnell's last chance to prove himself on what should be beauty of a pitch. Keshav can also be replaced by the Olivier but alas for the quotas!

  • Mark on January 12, 2017, 7:02 GMT

    My Sri Lankan Team I think would beat this Sri Lankan Team: 1 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 2 Sandun Weerakkody, 3 Shanuka Dulaj 4 Angelo Perera, 5 Kithuruwan Vithanage, 6 Roshen Silva, 7 Saliya Saman, 8 Roshan Jayatissa, 9 Malinda Pushpakumara, 10 Malith de Silva, 11 Mohomed Dilshad. The South African's would prefer to face pace rather than spin, even in their home conditions, so 2 quick's is sufficient. You also need a left-arm quick for variety, so Dilshad is a no-brainer. Saliya Saman is the best fast bowling all-rounder in Sri Lanka and should have been selected. The attack they've picked is too one-dimensional and lacks some x-factor. I wish sub-continental teams would not make the mistake of dropping all their spinner's when they come to the southern hemisphere. It's actually a good place to bowl spin with the grass on the pitch, footmarks and bounce. Playing second-rate quick's against batsmen that love playing pace is a recipe for disaster.

  • Jacques on January 12, 2017, 6:43 GMT

    Will probably be a rain affected match.

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