Benoni - Experienced Sri Lanka wicketkeeper batsman Kumar Sangakkara is bullish about his side's chances ahead of the first Test starting on Thursday, pointing to South Africa'a poor record in Sri Lanka as an indicator of the prospect of a tight contest.
"The South Africans haven't really even come close to beating us back home in recent times," said Sangakkara after the completion of the tourists' three day warmup match against a South African Invitation XI in Benoni on Sunday.
The 103-Test veteran also highlighted the large role spin would play on pitches traditionally suited to seam bowling.
"South Africa has always depended on pure pace as well as skill with the ball when it comes to fast bowling.
"They've got a good spinner in [Imran] Tahir so it will be interesting to see how they [spinners] stand up on wickets and whether the wickets will assist them enough to break games. But if you're a good spinner you should know and work on how to get wickets that don't help you," he said. "Spin has come to play a major part in all formats of the game. Even with two new balls in one day cricket, the spinners probably hold the key to turning games."
With any talk of spin bowling and Sri Lanka, the conversation quickly turned to Muttiah Muralitharan.
"You get one Murali and that's about it really," said Sangakkara.
"Again it's important for us to come to terms with that. We're not looking for the next Murali, we're looking for the next best spinner to come and win games for us. He might not take 800 wickets, but I think the guys we have on tour are good enough to do that job for us.
"Murali was probably one of the slowest bowlers to 200 Test wickets, they're not born overnight. It comes from years and years of hard work."
On the subject of Sri Lanka's dismal recent record, winning only one of their previous 18 Test matches, Sangakkara pointed to the changing squad dynamics.
"We are in a transition period where we are coming to terms with changes in the side and new players coming in, especially younger ones.
"We know where we are as a group and it's important for us to understand that and work with what we have, rather than paying too much attention to what happens around us."
Although Sri Lanka lost their opening bowler to a hamstring injury early in the match, the former Sri Lankan skipper was positive about what the team were able to achieve from the rain affected game in Benoni.
"It was not really great losing a bowler in the fourth over of the game, but I think the rest of the guys proceeded quite well," he said.
"The guys took on the responsibility of bowling the overs."
Sangakkara also played down any thought he would not be fit for the first Test, after splitting the webbing between his fingers on his right hand when fielding at backward point during the South African innings. Kaushal Silva wore the gloves during the warmup game.
"It just happened yesterday [Saturday], I've got three stitches in there and hopefully over the next three or four days it will settle. We can't really say for certain, but the physio will keep an eye on it and we'll see how it goes," he said.