Both teams come into the series on the back of impressive results with the Proteas having demolished Australia 3-1 at home while the Sri Lankans fought back valiantly to draw the three-Test series in the West Indies 1-1.
Faf du Plessis‘s men are the No.2 ranked Test outfit in the world and they will look to repeat the trick from their previous two-match Test tour of the Islands back in 2014, where they triumphed 1-0.
All eyes will be on whether Dale Steyn is handed a spot in the playing XI with the veteran pacer returning to the squad for the first time since injuring himself in the first Test against India at the start of the year.
While spin might be the way go in the subcontinent, South Africa coach Ottis Gibson has insisted that his squad will look to play to their strengths by lining up with three quicks. If his words are anything to go by, Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander could make up South Africa’s pace battery with Lungi Ngigi being the unfortunate bowler to miss out.
If Steyn indeed plays, he will be looking to overhaul Shaun Pollock to become the highest Test wicket-taker for South Africa. The 35-year-old is currently two wickets shy of Pollock’s tally of 421 wickets.
Hosts Sri Lanka will be looking to veteran spinner Rangana Herath again to carry their hopes with the ball in the Test series. The 40-year-old has an excellent track record at Galle where he has picked up 94 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 24.78.
Sri Lanka are sweating over the availability of skipper Dinesh Chandimal for the Test. Chandimal, coach Chandika Hathurusinghe and manager Asanka Gurusinha admitted to conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game in the recent tour of the West Indies when they refused to take the field owing to ball-tampering allegations.
"The verdict on the national cricket team’s top management and captain Dinesh Chandimal for bringing the game into disrepute is expected to be delivered tonight (Wednesday) ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Galle on Thursday." https://t.co/uIFmig3hgQ— Island Cricket (@IslandCricket) July 11, 2018
The hearing for the Level 3 offence took place on Wednesday with the verdict expected to be announced soon. If the sanctions to the offence Chandimal has pled guilty are enforced, the Sri Lanka skipper will be forced out of the entire two-match Test series. If Chandimal misses out, pacer Suranga Lakmal could lead the team once again.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal (c), Akila Dananjaya, Lahiru Kumara.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (c), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn.
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