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GALLE: South Africa will look to maintain its impressive away record in the two-match Test cricket series against Sri Lanka starting on Thursday at Galle International Stadium.

In the last 10 years, the Proteas have lost away Test series in India and England only, and they were last defeated by Sri Lanka in 2006.

Preparing for second-ranked South Africa is not the only challenge for the hosts.

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and team manager Asanka Gurusinha have been charged by the International Cricket Council with conduct contrary to the spirit of the game and were due to face a hearing later on Wednesday. All three have pleaded guilty and face a two-match suspension.

The charges came after Sri Lanka held up play on Day 3 of the second Test against West Indies in St Lucia in protest after Chandimal was accused of ball tampering. Chandimal was already suspended from the third Test against West Indies for altering the condition of the ball last month.

“The hearing is scheduled and we really don’t know what will happen at the hearing. We are ready for any outcome. We don’t know what will happen, but we are mentally prepared,” Sri Lankan batsman Roshen Silva said.

Seamer Suranga Lakmal is expected to lead the side in the absence of Chandimal.

Training was called off Wednesday due to rain and wet ground conditions, and bad weather is expected to play a major part in the Test.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of bilateral cricket between South Africa and Sri Lanka after the former’s readmission to the ICC following the end of apartheid.

The South Africans have won 14 of the 25 Tests between the countries, with only five victories for Sri Lanka.

“As many teams know, if they want to test themselves, they have got to play in away conditions. I believe South Africa has got a very proud record when touring away,” South African captain Faf du Plessis said. “The last time we played here we did well to win the series.”

South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn is making a comeback after a heel injury and the 35-year-old needs only three more wickets to become the outright highest Test wicket-taker for South Africa. Former captain Shaun Pollock with 421 tops that list.

“I’m hoping to see Dale bowl really quickly again. He hasn’t bowled for a long time, so he’ll be excited to get the opportunity again,” du Plessis said. “It’s a good sight to see when he gets the ball reversing, and he’s running in and keeping those legs really fast.

“In our bowling attack that we have, we have the ability to get 20 wickets on whatever the surfaces. I think this series will be won where the batters need to stand up for both teams,” he added.

Steyn, who last played a Test in January, is expected to be a part of potent pace attack.Du Plessis said he was also banking on Kagiso Rabada to swing it South Africa’s way and eventually to step into Steyn’s shoes as their foremost attack paceman.

Rabada, 23, is returning from a lower-back injury that saw him miss the Indian Premier League, but is still the year’s leading wicket-taker with 38 in seven Tests.

“The remarkable thing about KG [Rabada] is how quickly he learns. He has the ability to swing the bowl both ways which I think not many bowlers have,” said du Plessis. “KG will take over that mantle [from Steyn]. He has got the skills, pace and control to do well in all the conditions of the world.”But Silva also struck a confident note, saying they will make most of the home advantage in conditions that favour spin more than seam.

“At the moment they, South Africa, are the number two team in ranking. We expect them to come really hard at us. [But] we have prepared and we will give our best,” said Silva, who has played six Tests since making his debut in India last year. “If you take Bangladesh and in India, we did well [during those tours]. We will gave a good fight and we hope to win the series.”

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018