The South African home season kicks off on Boxing Day with a test series against Sri Lanka. Not being able to enjoy too much success in Boxing Day test at Durban in yesteryears, this time around Port Elizabeth will host the Boxing Day test. Walking down the memory lane, Sri Lanka had beaten South Africa in Boxing Day test in 2011. But this time around they are facing a Protea side that is fresh from a series win down under.
South African side with Morne Morkel, De Villiers and Dale Steyn still look very formidable. Stephen Cook has taken the opening slot and has done a fairly decent job despite few off games here and there. Hashim Amla had a dismal tour with the bat down under and will be looking to turn the things around.
JP Duminy has been in sublime touch ever since his move up the order at No.4. Faf du Plessis, now appointed as a full-time Test captain is back amongst the runs with a magnificent 118* in the day-night test at Adelaide. Quinton de Kock who was just awarded ICC ODI player of the year is growing from strength to strength and made the No.7 spot his own.
Even though without Steyn and Morkel, South Africa is no short of a threat when it comes to pace bowling. Kagiso Rabada has been absolutely brilliant in leading the pace attack. Vernon Philander has played crucial roles in winning matches for South Africa with the ball in recent times. Kyle Abbott has done exceedingly well in the limited opportunities he has got. South Africa have left out Tabraiz Shamsi who made his debut at Adelaide Oval, meaning Keshav Maharaj could get another go!
Sri Lanka are boosted by the return of their skipper Angelo Mathews and Vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal who missed out on Zimbabwe tour due to injuries. Kusal Mendis has undoubtedly been Sri Lanka’s find of the year who scored magnificent 176 vs Australia at Pallekele in July.
Upul Tharanga has announced himself in test cricket again with a good series vs Zimbabwe with scores of 110 and 79. The presence of Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal add solidity to the middle order while they have flamboyance in Kusal Perera. Dhanajaya De Silva who had a good debut series against Australia is also someone who Sri Lanka will be banking on to deliver the goods.
Sri Lanka’s pace attack is boosted by the return of their fastest bowler Dushmanta Chameera. Chameera had an impressive outing against New Zealand in Hamilton with figures of 9/115 in the match in December 2015. The pitches in South Africa are expected to favour him and an onus will be on him to spearhead the attack. Shaminda Eranga has been left out while a rookie pacer Vikum Sanjaya has been added. The spin department will be taken care of by veteran Rangana Herath.
Saying South Africa are favourites to win the series is like saying Albert Einstein was a scientist. But they have to be wary of Sri Lanka. Who knows Sri Lanka might pull off a surprising win as they did in 2011. Dale Steyn who is missing out due to injury has predicted a 2-0 in favour of SA! On paper Sri Lanka have 15 out of 100 to win the series, but who knows only time will tell!!