Match facts

January 2-6, 2017
Start time 1030 local (0830 GMT)

Moonda: 'Another chance for Amla to get into form'
Moonda: 'Another chance for Amla to get into form'

Big Picture

Table Mountain looms over the Newlands ground, grand and forbidding, with sheer crags in its higher reaches, and rugged pine forests on its lower spines. It imposes itself upon the city. It leaves you daunted. You wonder how on earth it was ever climbed.

Sri Lanka will know the feeling as they prepare to play in Cape Town, just two days after the 206-run loss at Port Elizabeth. They only have one day to practice, New Year's Eve having been a travel day. And now they've arrived at the ground for the first time to find rivulets of grass running the length of the pitch. Cape Town may be one of the most stunning places on the cricket circuit, but it will not be an easy venue to play in.

It is South Africa's seam attack that will be most encouraged by the colour of the Newlands surface. Over the past year, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander have all averaged less than 24. They moved the ball for longer than the Sri Lanka quicks in Port Elizabeth, and were far more consistent in their lines and lengths. If the venom ever leaves this pitch, they are capable of creating immense pressure regardless. Sri Lanka reflected in Port Elizabeth that they played poor shots, but South Africa's attack had also forced them into taking risks.

The hosts' top order also outguns Sri Lanka's. Hashim Amla may not have made a Test half-century in his eight most recent innings, but was positive and fluent for much of his second-innings 48 in Port Elizabeth, and has three 40-plus scores in his last five innings, in any case. The others have been in such form in recent Tests that it seems a pity someone will have to be dropped when AB de Villiers returns.

Many people do climb Table Mountain, of course. Every day tourists make the ascent by foot, as well as on cable car. Sri Lanka will hope that even if the challenge is daunting, it may not be completely impossible.

Form guide

South Africa: WLWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWWWW

In the spotlight

The tracks are green so that Rangana Herath is neutralised, but this also means that Keshav Maharaj has limited opportunity to impress in his first home series. He was doughty in Port Elizabeth rather than dominant - capable of bowling to a plan and keeping things tight until such time as the pitch begins to favour him, and he put together a wonderful spell to take the wicket of Dinesh Chanidmal in the second innings. With Tabraiz Shamsi and Dane Piedt also in contention for Test places, Maharaj will want his good run to continue.

Just as Dimuth Karunaratne made himself comfortable in the second innings at Port Elizabeth, he ran himself out and squandered his start. He is expecting a tougher inspection of his temperament at Newlands. There have been glimpses of a very good opener in the making on tours of New Zealand and he will hope he can channel his best innings - the 152 on a lurid green Hagley Oval track - on what may be a similar pitch here.

Teams news

South Africa have already announced they will retain the same eleven, despite a strain to one of Quinton de Kock's fingers.

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 Kyle Abbott, 10 Keshav Maharaj, 11 Kagiso Rabada

Sri Lanka may think about changes in the No. 3 position, with Upul Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva thought to be capable of batting there. Dushmantha Chameera may also be rested for this match in favour of Lahiru Kumara.

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

Pitch and conditions

The pitch looks likely to provide seam and bounce for most of the first two days, and the spinners will not hold out much hope for deterioration. The weather is forecast to be dry for the duration of the Test.

Stats and trivia

  • No Asian side has ever won at Newlands in 10 attempts. India have managed to draw, doing so twice.
  • Quinton de Kock needs 41 runs to complete 1000 in Test cricket. If he gets there in the first innings, he will be the joint fifth-fastest South Africa batsmen to the milestone, level with Faf du Plessis.
  • Vernon Philander has 31 wickets at Newlands at an average of 19.93.


"We want to win the Test series but more important is the brand of cricket we want to keep playing. We want to play it positive and aggressive, and when the opportunities are there to rather err on the expansive side than the conservative side. That's the type of cricket we're trying to play."
South Africa coach Russell Domingo

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