COLOMBO: Rangana Herath warned South Africa on Thursday to expect yet more spin in the second Test at the SSC Ground after the visitors were skittled for their lowest total since the Proteas’ readmission to international cricket.
Sri Lanka are chasing their first Test series win against the Proteas since 2006 and need just a draw to clinch the honours against the world’s second ranked Test side.
South Africa lost the opening Test in Galle inside three days after being dispatched for 126 in the first innings and 73 in the second.
Herath said pitch conditions for the start of the final Test on Friday were ripe for a repeat of last week’s drubbing, in which the left-arm spinner took five wickets and off-spinner Dilruwan Perera returned overall match figures of 10-78.
“If you see the surface, it’s dry. It will be more of a spin friendly surface,” the 40-year-old veteran spinner said.
“We have Dilruwan [Perera] and if we require we also have Dhananjaya [de Silva]. He couldn’t bowl in Galle, but he is certainly ready to bowl during games,” Herath told reporters.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis top-scored with a gritty 49 while paceman Kagiso Rabada impressed with four wickets in Sri Lanka’s first innings.
Rabada, who returned figures of 4-50, was ably supported by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander in their first innings to bowl out the hosts for 287, more than half of which were notched up by Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne.
Du Plessis said his team will rely on their pace bowlers to come back hard at the hosts.
“If it doesn’t rain, then we will have a dangerous weapon in our fast bowlers. Once again we have to make a call as to whether we are playing three seamers or two spinners,” du Plessis told reporters.
Du Plessis added that South Africa was aiming to conquer local conditions in their bid to overtake India — about to embark on a five-Test series in England — and become the number one side.
“It is never easy winning away from home. When you are coming to the sub-continent, drawing a series is as good as winning a series,” he said.
“It’s tough and that’s what the best teams do. We need to get to that number one position in Test cricket.”
Meanwhile, Herath doesn’t believe the ongoing absence of regular captain Dinesh Chandimal and head coach Chandika Hathurusingha will prevent Sri Lanka from completing an historic series victory against South Africa.
Even without suspended Chandimal, Chandika Hathurusingha, and manager Asanka Gurusinha, Sri Lanka were too good for the South Africans in the series opener in Galle last week.
Since then, all three men have been further punished by the ICC by being suspended for four One-day Internationals for their roles in the team refusing to take the field against the West Indies last month on day three of the second Test in St Lucia.
Chandimal is allowed in the changing room on match days, while Hathurusingha isn’t allowed but can coach between matches.
While admitting the extra punishment has been distracting, Herath said Sri Lanka are still receiving the help it needs from the captain and coach.
“If you see during nets, both the coach and captain were there and preparation was good,” Herath said. “Without them we cannot go that far. Only during the game they are not there, but they are behind us.”
Sri Lanka are contemplating bringing in off-spinner Akila Dananjaya in place of left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan, who had match figures of 8.5-1-19-2.
South Africa are hoping to celebrate Steyn, who needs one more wicket for 422 to lay sole claim as the team’s highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. He shares the record with Shaun Pollock. Steyn took two wickets in Galle.
“Dale is a guy who is known for getting teams out. He is very hungry for wickets. I am excited to see what he does,” du Plessis said.
South Africa could give a first cap to leg-spinner Shaun von Berg in place of slow left-armer Tabraiz Shamsi who has gone home for family reason.
SRI LANKA: Suranga Lakmal (captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan/Akila Dananjaya.
SOUTH AFRICA: Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Shaun von Berg.
Umpires: Nigel Llong (England) and Rod Tucker (Australia).
TV umpire: Paul Reiffel (Australia).
Match referee: Richie Richardson (West Indies) .
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2018