Sri Lanka v South Africa, 2nd Test, Colombo July 23, 2014

SL seek turnaround on sleepy SSC pitch


Match facts

July 24-28, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)

Play 02:28
'No. 1 ranking very important to South Africa'

Big Picture

Things that have been more lively than the SSC Test pitches in recent years: the planet Mars, the SLPL's twitter account and the third floor of London's Langham Hotel in the dead of night.

The last three Tests there have been draws. But with Sri Lanka requiring a win there to level the series, perhaps the groundstaff have produced a surface more akin to what first-class teams regularly encounter at SSC. There can be a little help for the seamers early on at the venue, but Sri Lanka will hope for plenty of turn as well, which occasionally does occur.

Whatever the surface is like, Sri Lanka know South Africa have already brought them down to earth, after their excellent five months between January and July. The hosts comfortably lost an ODI series they were expected to win. Then when they went to Galle, looking for victory, they came back with a big defeat. That loss has placed a microscope firmly on Sri Lanka's misfiring middle order, which will see at least one change on Thursday.

South Africa have, in contrast, appeared settled and at ease in Sri Lanka, both on and off the field. The reserves have been for light jogs around Galle. Morne Morkel and AB de Villiers have had their hair clipped at a roadside barber. The views around the Kandy hills even prompted an unusually sensitive appreciation for nature, from Dale Steyn.

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, none of this has prevented the visitors from being ruthless at the cricket. Steyn and Morkel accounted for 16 wickets in Galle, striking with raw pace and bounce as much as through reverse-swing. South Africa's batsmen have also resisted spin much better than they did in an ODI series last year - having been particularly effective against Rangana Herath in the first Test.

A series victory of any description will see South Africa reclaim their top ranking. Sri Lanka will have to play substantially better than at Galle to prevent that outcome.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWDDW
South Africa:WLWLW

In the spotlight

There are murmurings Mahela Jayawardene's farewell Test against Pakistan in August could be moved to SSC, instead of the P Sara Oval, but barring intervention, this will be Jayawardene's last match at his home ground. His 2698 runs at the SSC are more than anyone has scored at any single venue, and he averages 77.08 there, after 25 Tests. Jayawardene has not been in excellent touch over the last two months, even if he found ways of making runs in England. But if there was one pitch that should see him return to his best before the swansong, this is it. Last time South Africa bowled to him here, they were chasing leather off his blade for 12-and-a-half hours.

Outdone by Dale Steyn, as almost everybody always is, Morne Morkel nevertheless ran in with intent and prised seven wickets out of a Galle pitch that did not appear to suit his talents. His extra bounce created problems for Kumar Sangakkara in both innings (and he should have had him out twice too, had Quinton de Kock not dropped Sangakkara in the second dig), and the angles he bowled to Sri Lanka's indisciplined batsmen were often impeccable. If the SSC surface is as flat as it often is, Morkel's height may have him well-placed to launch an expedition to find signs of life on the pitch.

Teams news

In the most left-field selection move Sri Lanka has made in some time, wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella has been flown in from England. Angelo Mathews said Chandimal was still in the mix, despite what SLC had said on Tuesday, but it appears Dickwella is likely to play. Sri Lanka may also consider playing Kithuruwan Vithanage in place of Lahiru Thirimanne. Shaminda Eranga has also been ruled out through injury, so Sri Lanka will make at least two changes to the XI. Dhammika Prasad, who also plays for SSC in first-class cricket, is the frontrunner to replace Eranga.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Kaushal Silva, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Suranga Lakmal

The only addition to the South Africa camp has been Gary Kirsten's arrival, as part of his role as a team consultant. South Africa may not want to make significant changes to their winning combination, but Vernon Philander's place seems under some threat, after he went wicketless in Galle.

South Africa (probable): 1 Alviro Peterson, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Hashim Amla (capt.), 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 JP Duminy, 8 Vernon Philander/ Wayne Parnell, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

It can rain in Colombo at this time of year, but the showers often arrive late in the evening, when the cricket is already wrapping up for the day. Overnight rain does not often affect the cricket in Sri Lanka, where the entire ground is kept under covers.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have not lost a match at SSC since March 2004, against Australia
  • After Galle, Steyn now has two five-wicket hauls in the three matches he has played in Sri Lanka. His first five-for in the subcontinent came at the P Sara Oval in 2006
  • Morne Morkel needs four wickets to reach 200 Test scalps


    "We will go all out to try and win this Test. If we lose 2-0 it doesn't matter, as long as we play well.
    Angelo Mathews

    "Test cricket is a challenging place. I'm sure he will come good. It just takes a few good performances. He is one of the most highly skilled legspinners in the world."
    Hashim Amla hinted strongly that South Africa are willing to give Imran Tahir a few more chances

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    Good decision to keep out of form batsmen in the bench. SSC pitch is not sleepy if you bowl accurately in the first session as it is quite lively. Hopefully SL will come up with a more professional and committed performance this time around.

  • Manjula on July 24, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    I think SL lost the one day series mainly because they lost the toss in both matches. Same happened with the first test. Lets see what happens at SSC

  • Lalith on July 24, 2014, 3:35 GMT

    SL must field well If they have any desire to win!. Tail end should consider themselves as batsmen when they are at the crease. No need of a VC until a potential player is mature enough to wear that hat. Give Taranga all the support he needs. Lahiru needs to understand is role in the team. Senior players need to stay at the crease long enough when playing TEST matches. SL, need to stay focused on the game until the match is over, celebrate later!

  • john on July 24, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    I agree with the comment posted earlier that Sri Lanka is surely destined to lose this match. Not because they cannot counter SA but because of their biased selection approach. If Mahela plays, Sri Lanka's demise is certain. He, in his present state cannot face this SA attack and the middle order that that is already feeble going to get from worse to hopeless with his inclusion. PLEASE replace Mahela before he does further damage and try out some fresh blood. At least that will be an investment for the future.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2014, 3:25 GMT

    Winning the toss seems to be playing a substantial part in the ongoing series. Though SA had been definitely playing with more professionalism, winning the toss had added to their advantage. SL is not as second as it seems by the results, if the luck of the toss turns around I feel SL will win.

  • c on July 24, 2014, 3:19 GMT

    Marcel_Ci: And you say this about Mahela and SL after having looked at every Test ever played at SSC or just cos it felt good to say so?

    AJS007: Haha. Quite funny even if somewhat silly.

    Ashokdmightyindian: SL is the worse batting line-up while IND is the best? Hillarious! Hope you were on your feet when you wrote that cos there is no such thing called 'sit-down comedy'. But, then, you also said Philander is the worse bowler in modern era. To your credit, your comedy is universal!

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2014, 3:12 GMT

    these days are wretched days for the sri lankans,surely they will lose this test also,fiirst they will loose the toss and SA will bat first and score 600 runs and afterwards the typical sri lankan batting collapses will happen,all too predictable and boring,and not worth the time waste to watch the match..

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    if a 2 - 0 win for SA, it matters the test rankings of SL. So SL must consolidate the position first and then try to win if there is a possibility. Otherwise, try to draw the game if not in a position to win. It is also a win to some extent that we can relish.

    SL bowlers must be ordered to support the recognized batsmen when they bat and avoid throwing away their wickets as the last test.

    Thirimanne must be dropped and Chandimal must be punished by dropping for being reckless.

  • Steven on July 24, 2014, 2:38 GMT

    Sounds like another boring slow and low wicket as usual world wide these days let's hope it has something in it for the bowlers prob the spinners maybe abit of reverse swing hopefully it happens without help from philander thirimanne should count himself so so lucky if he plays he's in as bad form as chandimal and his career stats are far worst then chandimals and thirimanne I'd the one they decide to that seems crazy to me they both deserved to be dropped if you ask me

  • Peter on July 24, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    Sri Lanka made a Blunder by not playing a winning team in the ODIs and SA winning the ODI series gave them confidence in the TEST match . Omitting players like Thisara in the ODI's (with no 20/20 in this tour) was the worst mistake , Also all tours of any teams play atleast one or two 20/20s ,, Suprise no 20/20 matches in this tour.. Any reason??? can anyone answer this question?