Cape Town - South Africa seem set fair for
an early series kill against Sri Lanka as they shift to beloved Newlands, where
they have only lost one of the last 14 Tests, for the second encounter over New
Expectations of swollen crowds - day one on
Monday is already sold out - will only spur Faf du Plessis and company further
to get the job done rousingly, with the Wanderers closing fixture to spare.
According to David Brooke, the Cape Cobras’
brand and sponsorship manager, a healthy 12 500 tickets had also been sold for
the second day’s play by the time of writing on Friday.
It helped the SA cause ahead of the middle
Test enormously that they wrapped up the St George’s Park clash on Friday in
little more than an hour, seizing the required five wickets in 13.3 overs, to
secure a 206-run triumph.
Had the Lankans dragged out play
significantly deeper into the sun-filled day, the Proteas would have had reason
to fear for the sprightliness of their existing three-man seam attack at
Newlands, especially if they don’t get to bat first.
But the relatively light workout on day
five certainly stiffens the likelihood, fitness to all customers permitting,
that the same XI will duly operate again in Cape Town.
There is no compelling, purely
cricket-related reason now to adjust the team for Newlands, even if Temba
Bavuma has arguably become the batsman most endangered - albeit it’s a
ding-dong matter - for when premier stroke-player AB de Villiers returns from
his long-term injury.
Middle-order customer Bavuma has notched
only 40 runs in his last four innings (Adelaide and Port Elizabeth), but in his
defence his second-innings dismissal at St George’s Park would probably have
been reversed had it got to television referral.
He had also been really looking the part in
the earlier portion of the victorious series in Australia, and remember also
that his poignant maiden century came in last year’s New Year match at
Newlands, when he scored 102 not out in the high-scoring draw against England.
If the just-completed Test in the Friendly
City served notice of one thing, heading for game two, it was that the tourists
could prosper rather better in “total” terms if some of their batsmen match
tenacity shown with better shot selection and fewer pretty needless dismissals.
They did make the Proteas’ attack work appreciably
harder in the second innings to bundle them out, using up 96.3 overs as opposed
to only 64.5 in the first.
That said, you also get the feeling that
the heavy series favourites can crank up their collective ruthlessness and
efficiency a notch or two at Fortress Newlands.
As skipper Du Plessis noted, while clearly
chuffed overall, in the immediate post-match television interview: “We are
flying at around 80 percent ... we’ve got another 20 percent in the tank.”
In recent years, the Newlands surface has
become more and more renowned for mostly retaining its integrity right up to
day five, so a fair bit more bending of the backs may be required for South
Africa to complete the 20-wickets task.
Ashwell Prince, the SuperSport commentator
and former Proteas batsman and selector, warned that there might be “only a bit
more pace and bounce” than was witnessed in PE, and that perhaps a bit more
grass might need to be left on the strip to stop it from becoming a rank
Spinners can be influential at the venue,
and in that regard Keshav Maharaj’s continued strong strides at national level
at St George’s Park will be heartening to the SA camp.
Meanwhile, as if to add to their relative
woes, the Sri Lankans - their seam attack is hardly the most threatening ever
to visit these shores, judging by the last few days - would have been deeply
concerned about their champion left-arm spinner Rangana Herath getting struck
on a bowling finger by Kyle Abbott while he batted on Friday.
Still coming to terms, in some respects,
with life minus a certain “Muralitharan” surname in their XI, any fitness
uncertainty at all over the veteran Herath would be the very last thing they
need for the second Test ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing