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LIONS Face Moment Of Truth In Series Opener

South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Port Elizabeth

Will the Lions continue their five-test winning streak?

Sri Lanka’s Cricketers who have been enjoying some good successes this year will face their moment of truth when they take on hosts South Africa in the first test at Port Elizabeth tomorrow.

The Sri Lankans have had a year to remember with a 3-0 whitewash of the then number one ranked Australians at home followed by a 2-0 sweep against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe to record five successive test wins.

These triumphs are all the more remarkable as they have been achieved by a team in transition and despite the fact that they have been plagued by injuries to key players and have never had all their first choice players available for selection.

The Lankans beat the Australians despite missing the cream of their fast bowling attack due to injury and then travelled to Zimbabwe without their two most experienced players – skipper Angelo Mathews and Vice-Captain Dinesh Chandimal – who were both injured in the series against Australia.

Both Mathews and Chandimal are back in the side and fast bowlers DushmanthaChameera and Nuwan Pradeep are also available after recovering from injury and the Lions have a strong squad from which to select their playing eleven.

Another pleasing aspect for the visitors is that all their front line batsmen showed good form in their opening warm up match and the confidence in the dressing room will be quite high.

Another bonus is that the Lankans have been given a very generous schedule of the three-test series with the first test being held at Port Elizabeth which is probably the closest to resembling a Subcontinent pitch with slow bounce and some turn. The second test is at Cape Town which is known to assist spinners and the final game is in fast-paced Johannesburg where the quick men will come into their own.

The composition of the Sri Lankan team is quite predictable with possibly just one place left depending on the state of the wicket and how it is expected to play.

Openers DimuthKarunaratne and Kaushal Silva are set to continue at the top and their big 159-run stand in the warm match game must have boosted their confidence. KusalPerera appears to be groomed for the vital number three slot allowing the young batting talents of KusalMendis to blossom at number four.

Skipper Mathews and deputy Chandimal will provide a very solid middle order at five and six and the find of the Australian series Dhananjaya de Silva offers excellent back up at number seven.

Such is the luxury of the selectors that the experienced UpulTharanga will have to miss out on a place despite showing good form in the warm up game.

The wily old spinner RanganaHerath who is in the form of his life with both bat and ball has sealed the number eight slot until he quits the game.

Chameera was slightly off colour in the opening game but he must play because of his ability to regularly bowl at 145 kmph and will pose problems to the batsmen. Pradeep should hold the slot as Chameera’s partner ahead of SurangaLakmal and the last place may go to a third seamer – young Lahiru Kumara  who took three wickets in the first game unless the selectors prefer a second specialist spinner in which case DilruwanPerera will get a look in.

The South African team are also a team in transition and a fair number of their players have only recently come into the side and are looking to cement their places. The hosts too have some exciting and talented players which should make this series a fascinating clash of two teams in transition seeking to establish themselves.

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