South Africa are about to start their first Test series in the post AB retirement era, when they play 2 Tests, 5 ODIs and 1 T20 in Sri Lanka.
Whilst they have played without AB de Villiers in the Test team and they have won Tests without him; they won in Australia and New Zealand sans AB, this is different. This time, they know he isn’t coming back. This time, they know they have to make a plan without him.
The last time the Proteas toured Sri Lanka in 2014, they won the 2 match series 1-0 and yes, they had AB then, but they still have a lot of experience from the last tour in the team now. They still have Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, and let’s not forget, Dale Steyn is back!
They also have what could potentially be South Africa’s best Test spinner for a long time, in Keshav Maharaj. His record to date is exemplary, his average is 28 and that is without him playing in the sub-continent yet.
South Africa also have what I would, and have called, the best Test bowling attack in the world. With KG, Philander, Maharaj and Steyn, that is one formidable line up. Adding the likes of Lungi Ngidi and Junior Dala in the mix too, there is depth, there is back-up. This is a great bowling attack with experience, youth, skill, revere swing and spin. It’s got everything needed to succeed in sub-continent conditions.
The Proteas batting has been the cause of much dismay among fans of late, and in the only tour match before the 1st Test starts on July 12th, the batsmen had a good workout. Amla (78), Faf (79) and Bavuma (58) all got good runs, they spent good time out in the middle. The fast bowlers found it tough out there, with Lungi Ngidi being the only paceman to get a wicket. Spinners, Tabraiz Shamsi (5-45), Shaun von Berg (2-82) and Dean Elgar (1-13) picked up the other wickets, along with 1 run out.
Sri Lanka are coming off a well-played series in the West Indies, drawing 1-1. They have had a rough time of it in the Test arena of late, but they are playing at home and make no mistake, they are tough to beat at home. They will be a threat and they cannot be taken lightly. Sri Lanka is a not a place where teams tour and win easily, it will be hard work if South Africa are to win there again and to do so, they will need to be on their A-game at all times.
The first Test in Galle starts on Thursday 12th July, 06:30 SA time.