Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews has emphasised the need for his batsmen to give his bowlers a chance on the tour of South Africa by getting runs in tough conditions. Mathews said the team had been batting on granite to try and get used to extra bounce ahead of the three-Test series beginning on December 26.
"With Dushmantha Chameera coming back into the team and young Vikum Sanjaya earning his spot, we have got a fairly decent pace attack which can put them under pressure, but we need to score runs as a batting unit," Mathews said ahead of the team's departure for South Africa. "It's going to be our main challenge; the boys have worked extremely hard in the past few weeks."
Part of that hard work was facing deliveries coming off granite surfaces to try and mimic the conditions in South Africa. "The pace the boys are used to, it's just the the bounce and the conditions that we need to get used to," Mathews said. "We used a lot of granite stuff, especially the batters. When you use a piece of granite, the ball is coming on to you quicker. The granite is laid down on the pitch and you can throw the ball on it so that it comes on quicker.
"We've done everything possible to try and counterattack the South African fast bowlers and get used to their conditions. We have about 12 days before we play our first Test on Boxing Day. We'll try and use those days to the maximum so that we get things right."
Mathews was aiming to break the predominant trend in modern-day cricket, where teams struggle to win away from home. Sri Lanka won a Test series 2-0 in Zimbabwe in October and November but South Africa, who won 2-1 in Australia recently, are significantly tougher opponents. When Sri Lanka last toured South Africa, in 2011-12, they lost the three-Test series 1-2.
"Most of the teams do well and win at home but struggle overseas. It happens to any team but we want to try and achieve some wins overseas and turn the tables," Mathews said. "I am confident that my team can do it. We got a good combination where we have five fast bowlers, two experienced spinners and a solid batting order."
Sri Lanka's batting was boosted by the return of Mathews, who recovered from a leg injury, and Dinesh Chandimal, whose broken hand had healed. They will slot into the middle order along with Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva. Mathews hoped that his side would have stability, which he said was a reason for South Africa's success.
"Except for one or two changes, they are pretty much a settled team for the past four-five years," Mathews said of South Africa. "They have been going with the same sort of players, maximum 20. They have managed a set combination and now the results are showing. The settled combination is the one that has led to their success today.
"We are now doing the same, we talked about it a lot. The solution is not to chop and change but be patient with the players."
Sri Lanka have a three-day warm-up game in Potchefstroom before the first Test in Port Elizabeth from December 26. The second Test is in Cape Town from January 2 and the third in Johannesburg from January 12, after which the teams play three T20Is and five ODIs.