Sri Lanka, having got some valuable batting practice in Lenasia, were forced to spend the second afternoon of their match against a Rest of South Africa XI watching a slow drizzle interfere with their preparations for the First Test starting on Friday, at the Wanderers. Nevertheless, coach Dav Whatmore was happy with his team's preparations for the first Test against South Africa starting November 8.
"After a long lay off the players were a bit rusty in Kimberley but have improved a lot in the last week," said the Sri Lankan born Australian. "I am very happy with the way they have batted in this match. The two paced pitch and the strength of the opposition has been well weathered by the batsmen. From 137 for four the players have turned it around to where we are now."
Whatmore, more than impressed with Garnett Kruger, believes that his players have gained valuable exposure to what he feels can be expected from the South Africans in the Test match.
Whatmore added that they are expecting a much quicker pitch for the Test, but is happy with the way the preparations have gone. The composition of the side, with only one spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan (skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, after his shoulder injury, is not expected to bowl at all during the tour), shows that they have learnt from previous visits to South Africa.
Opener Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene have started the tour in excellent form and with left-handers Kumar Sangakkara and Hashan Tillakaratne having also adapted well to conditions, Sri Lanka have the potential to plenty of runs. The only real concern is the form of opener Russel Arnold.
Rookie all-rounder Hasantha Fernando has impressed with both bat and ball thus far and is now virtually certain of making his Test debut next week, leaving only one selection dilemma: the third seamer. The final choice will depend on who bowls best during the last two days of this practice game.
At Kimberley the bowling was disappointing, although they improved as the match progressed. "They were put under a lot of pressure against South Africa 'A' and I am extremely happy with how they handled it. Neil Dippenaar and McKenzie batted very well, but we came out of the game with a lot of credit," said Whatmore.
Muralitharan, of course, is expected to play a key role in the series. The off-spinner sat out the first warm-up game and is looking forward to his first bowl during the next two days.
Characteristically confidant, he dismissed suggestions that he will rely on wear on the pitch to turn the ball significantly in South Africa, claiming: "I don't need any rough." He then revealed that 1000 Test wickets is now his ambition, a feat that he believes is possible in the next eight years.