| CAPE TOWN
CAPE TOWN Another seam-friendly wicket stacks the odds overwhelmingly in favour of hosts South Africa when they take on Sri Lanka in the second test at Newlands, starting on Monday.
The middle contest in a three-match series comes just two days after South Africa completed a 206-run victory at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth in the Boxing Day test.
That surface was supposedly the closest Sri Lanka would get on their tour to conditions that would allow spin spearhead Rangana Herath to make an impact.
Even then, it proved a contest where the home side were in firm control, though the visitors did provide some dogged resistance at times.
At Newlands, the bowling trio of Kyle Abbott, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada will again be looking to dominate the batsmen, with captain Faf du Plessis insisting three seamers would be enough, even if it does put their stamina to the test with just two free days between matches.
"The seam attack has proven we can do it with three," he said after the first test success. "The key is obviously not to have anyone breaking down."
Last year’s New Year’s test at Newlands saw South Africa battered by Ben Stokes' record-breaking 258 from 198 balls as they lost a home series to England and their place as the top test side in the International Cricket Council rankings.
But, even without talismanic AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, South Africa have since beaten New Zealand and Australia and set their target on a much improved 2017 in which they will go to England and then host Bangladesh and India.
"It’s important for this team that even though we are playing really well, we must make sure that we look at areas, especially when we are winning, where we can improve,” said du Plessis.
Sri Lanka are likely to make changes to strengthen their batting line-up with Upul Tharanga expected to replace Kusal Perera at number three. Defeat in Port Elizabeth ended a run of five successive test victories for Sri Lanka, whose last home series was a convincing whitewash of Australia in mid-year but they remain unconvincing on the road.
They have lost nine of 11 previous tests in South Africa. Sri Lanka were beaten by an innings and 229 runs and by 10 wickets in their two previous tests at Newlands.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)