Proteas ready to fight to keep home victory record
Having lost the first Test to Sri Lanka, SA are up against it in the final Test starting in Port Elizabeth on Thursday
SA will have added incentive to get one over Sri Lanka when the sides meet in the second cricket Test at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
The Proteas have never lost a home series against a sub-continent side, losing only to England and Australia. The last of those defeats came a decade ago against the Aussies in 2009 when Graeme Smith’s team lost in Johannesburg and Durban before managing a consolation win in Cape Town.
Faf du Plessis’ class of 2019 are up against it this week. At 1-0 down in the two-match series there is no room for error and also no other option but to win if they are to retain their home status against Asian teams.
Du Plessis says the team are up for a fight.
“We are very proud of our record here,” he told a media conference on Wednesday. “We’ve made sure that we’ve made our home our fortress. We’ve played some excellent cricket for the last two years or so.”
If they require any further inspiration, the Proteas need only look at their recent record at St George’s where they have gone six matches unbeaten.
After the disappointment of Durban where a thrilling Kusal Perera century led the tourists to a one-wicket victory, the Proteas will be desperate to set the record straight.
“Yes, the guys were very disappointed. I felt we were in control pretty much most of the Test match and then something brilliant took it away from us. There are areas we want to improve on for this Test match but we also understand that there were not a lot of mistakes made in the first game.
“The guys are really motivated for the this next Test match. It’s a disappointing thing with a short series and we obviously only play two matches. For us it’s about making sure we can square up the series.”
To accomplish that, SA will need to get the balance of their team right following the injury of Vernon Philander.
The talk ahead of the Test has been that allrounder Wiaan Mulder will make his debut in a direct swop for Philander. It also seems likely spinner Keshav Maharaj will be retained.
“The two options would be playing an extra batter at seven and having the three seamers with a spinner or Wiaan Mulder making his debut. Wiaan’s a like-for-like player for Vern and probably more of a batting allrounder than a bowling allrounder. So those are the two options.”
Du Plessis made no secret of the fact that he rates Mulder very highly. The Lions allrounder has impressive first-class figures, averaging 43 with the bat and 23 with the ball.
“The nice thing that Wiaan offers you is that he is actually an extra batsman just as much as any of the other two batters (Theunis de Bruyn and Zubayr Hamza ),” Du Plessis said.
“How I see Wiaan playing a role for the Proteas moving forward is a batting allrounder. In Test cricket he can bat at number six or seven and be your extra 10 overs that you need in the field from him. He does bring a lot of balance to our team.”
Du Plessis said the surface at St George’s looked similar to that of the Test against Australia last year, a match SA won thanks to 11 wickets from Kagiso Rabada and a hundred from AB de Villiers.
Du Plessis will be hoping for similar contributions this time around.
SA: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Oshada Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Lasith Embuldeniya
Play starts at 10am.