COLOMBO, Sir Lanka - South Africa’s decision to omit their second specialist spinner may come back to haunt them here in the second and final Test at the SSC.
The Proteas brainstrust opted to play seven specialist batmen, including Theunis de Bruyn at the expense of all-rounder Vernon Philander. Even more bizarrely, though, they also included fast bowler Lungi Ngidi for left-arm chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi, who was back in Sri Lanka after returning home mid-week due to the death of his father. The players are wearing black armbands to commemorate the passing of Shamsi’s father.
South Africa’s three seamers Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi struggled during a sweltering first session after Sri Lankan captain Suranga Lakmal won the toss and elected to bat. Galle hero Dimuth Karunaratne (42 not out) and Danushka Gunathilaka (44 not out) moved confidently to 93/0 at the lunch interval.
On a flat deck, which virtually looked like baked clay, the pace trio attempted to unsettle the Sri Lankan openers with a short-pitched assault. Although there were a few uncomfortable moments for the openers, they could not create a solid chance though.
Steyn’s wait to pass Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s all-time wicket-taker also continues, with “The Phalaborwa Express” still requiring that one magical wicket. He may have to wait a further while as this is the ground where Sri Lanka once posted 756/5 against South Africa back in 2006.
TOSS: Sri Lanka have won the toss and elected to bat! Proteas will have to come out and bowl in this sweltering heat! 2 changes to the #Proteas team with Theunis de Bruyn and Lungi Ngidi named in the starting XI!! @IOLsport #SLvSA pic.twitter.com/biUf4jcNCr
On that occasion, the hosts did not lose a wicket for 157 overs with Kumar Sangakkara (287 off 457 balls) and Mahela Jayawardene (374 off 572 balls) putting together a mammoth 624-run partnership for the third wicket.
South Africa have not won a Test at the SSC in 25 years, dating back to Brett Schultz’s inspired nine-wicket haul in 1993. Four years ago, though, Hashim Amla’s team recorded a credible draw to win the series here. They will need a greater effort here over the course of the next five days as only a victory will ensure the series is drawn after the capitulation in Galle last week.
Second Test, Day 1, Lunch 1:
Sri Lanka: 93/0 (Karunaratne 42*, Gunathilaka 44*)