Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Already haunted by their poor
Test record in South Africa, Sri Lanka will arrive for the latest series
weakened by the absence of several fast bowlers.
None of Nuwan Kulasekara, Shaminda Eranga
or Dhammika Prasad could be considered for the squad announced last week, and
on Wednesday the Lankans suffered another blow when 24-year-old Suranga Lakmal
pulled out with an ankle injury.
They have not named a replacement as they
are banking on one of the three quickies already mentioned recovering in time
to be put on a plane for possible involvement from the second Test (in Durban
from Boxing Day) onward.
But their stocks will be pretty depleted as
they prepare to tackle the first Test at Centurion, from December 15 to 19,
with an attack overwhelmingly unfamiliar with South African conditions because
it has been so long since they last played here.
The tourists, ranked fifth on the ICC Test
ladder to the Proteas’ third, may have to pin their seam hopes heavily on
Dilhara Fernando, a veteran of 37 Tests and 146 one-day internationals who, if
he plays, will be the only Lankan bowler at Centurion to have prior experience
of Test combat in South Africa.
Encouragingly, his last appearance on our
soil was at the very same Centurion, in November 2002, when his four for 49 in
the South African second innings, in pursuit of a modest 121 for victory, gave
the Proteas a huge scare before they emerged three-wicket winners.
Fernando, who can also be injury-prone but
hits the deck hard when on song, ripped out Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis,
Ashwell Prince and current SA coach Gary Kirsten cheaply as the host nation
tottered to 44 for five at one stage in the chase.
Sadly for Sri Lanka, the iconic Lasith
Malinga, a genuine strike bowler with his eccentric round-arm action and
toe-crushing yorkers, retired from all Test activity earlier this year to
preserve a knee problem he has for one-day combat alone.
He will probably take part in the
five-match ODI series which begins at Paarl on January 11.