South Africa will have two days to acclimatise to conditions in Sri Lanka this weekend, as they play a low-key, two-day friendly in the capital city, Colombo, starting today.
The match is seen as a short, but important introduction to conditions that they are likely to encounter in the first Test in Galle. Skipper Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson will look to give as many of their squad members a go in the middle, given the quick turnaround between this weekend, and Thursday’s start of the Test match.
The Proteas have trained for two days in Colombo, getting used to the stifling humidity of the island. There will be some respite, however, as Galle is on the sea, and tends to be much cooler than Colombo.
For spinners Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg, the weekend should have plenty of work in store. Du Plessis will likely use his fast men in short, sharp bursts, and then give his slow men the chance to impress.
The two wrist-spinners are essentially in a bowl-off to catch the eye of the captain and the coach, as this is their only opportunity present their case to bowl alongside the established Maharaj, if the Proteas see fit to employ two spinners.
For veteran Dale Steyn, the weekend will also provide a chance to show that he is match fit and in form, ahead of a potentially record-breaking appearance in Galle. If he can emerge unscathed from what will surely be a few, testing spells, Du Plessis and Gibson will sleep a lot easier as they look ahead to what the groundsman in Galle has in store for them.
For the batsmen, the weekend tune-up is a chance to shake off some rust, and also get accustomed to batting for long periods in the steam in the middle. More than the spinners, the concentration levels can present the biggest challenge on the sub-continent, and South Africa
know all too well that they will have to bat for long periods in order to give their bowlers a chance to rest up in the Test series.
Their hosts have named their Test squad, and the embattled Dinesh Chandimal has been picked, as expected. This is despite Chandimal facing a likely ban for his part in Sri Lanka’s delayed return to the field in the West Indies, where he was captain. Chandimal pleaded guilty to a Level Three charge that carries a sanction of a two-match ban minimum.
In his likely absence, Suranga Lakmal is set to lead the islanders.
But, before South Africa turn their attentions to the first Test, they have a sweat to build up in Colombo this weekend.