South Africa v Sri Lanka Test series: 4 things to look out for
Four talking points for the upcoming Test series between South Africa and Sri Lanka, which starts on Boxing Day.
South Africa’s leadership
Quinton de Kock has taken on the South Africa captaincy for this series, but only tentatively.
The proteas’ white-ball skipper admits that he has no interest in the job long-term, even though no full-time replacement for Faf du Plessis has yet been decided upon.
De Kock may give up wicket-keeping duties in order to focus on his new role, and he will still have the experience and wisdom of Du Plessis to call upon, but the leadership of the side will still be worth keeping an eye on.
Upon accepting the job for this series, De Kock admitted that South Africa are waiting for somebody to ‘really put their hand up’ and grasp the lead in the race for the captaincy.
With Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada and others surely in the frame, which individuals lend De Kock the biggest hand in leading the side will be an interesting subplot.
Sri Lanka’s away record
Funnily enough, Sri Lanka’s greatest hour away from home in the last few years was on these shores, a 2-0 series win in early 2019.
But while memories of that victory – and one of the greatest Test match innings of all time by Kusal Perera – can inspire the visitors, their dodgy travelling record is an obvious trend, and means that they will have to radically over-perform to win this series.
Other than that tour nearly two years ago, the visitors haven’t won any of their 14 Test matches in England, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa – where conditions are most different to their own – since 2014.
Various technical and psychological issues have held back the visitors on those occasions. They will need to be more 2019 and less 2014-18 to stand a chance here.
South Africa’s pace attack
Seam bowling is generally a non-factor in Test matches in Sri Lanka, so it is no surprise that they are often hamstrung by their inability to play it well away from home.
Indeed, in their last three Test series in Australia, New Zealand and England, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have led the wicket-taking tallies.
That will be music to the ears of South Africa’s pace attack, which features players who are, or can be, as potent as some of the names on that list.
Anrich Nortje has had a stellar 2020, quickly establishing himself as integral to the Proteas in all formats, while Lungi Ngidi is also a fine support act with plenty of potential. No more need be said, meanwhile, about Kagiso Rabada.
Given their opponent’s clear weakness, all three will see this series as a huge opportunity.
Du Plessis’ post-captaincy career
His fine form since resigning the South Africa captaincy suggests that Du Plessis does not see this part of his career as a farewell tour.
The 36-year-old has produced yet another solid IPL campaign – he was the 11th-highest run-scorer – and scored two 50s in three T20 internationals against England in the last four months, turning back the clock with some remarkable power-hitting.
Given that, it would be a surprise if his form were to desert him now.
The former skipper has seemed a relaxed and confident figure in the last year, and is another who can take advantage of a series against opponents that South Africa are favourites to beat.
That said, Du Plessis has never made a Test hundred in 17 innings against Sri Lanka. This would seem a decent time to put that right.
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