Proteas opening bowler Vernon Philander has spoken of the need for early wickets in the upcoming two-match Test series against Sri Lanka starting in Galle on Wednesday.
The last time South Africa donned the whites in Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene put on a 624-run partnership. Philander realises that if the Proteas don’t strike with the new ball then they could face a similar outcome.
‘The more damage you can do with the new ball the better,’ Philander said on Monday after training. ‘You want batsmen five, six and seven batting against a newish nut. In these conditions you want to be striking with the new ball, our lines up front need to get the batsmen to play.’
Philander realises that the pace attack will have to make adjustments in the alien conditions in order to utilise the new ball’s potential to the fullest.
‘I wouldn’t really say that lengths change, its more the line of attack,’ he said. ‘You need to sit on that off-stump line, and make sure you get the lbw into the game, the wider ball becomes the knick-off. Hopefully we can adjust really quickly and assess conditions accordingly.’
The Proteas opening bowler is a master of getting the ball to move off the deck. He is hopeful that the humid conditions will give him the little bit of assistance that he thrives off.
‘There is a bit of moisture and overhead conditions around which will favour the swing bowlers,’ he said. ‘We have to wait and see what the deck looks like on the morning of the Test.’
One of the major reasons for South Africa’s poor record in Sri Lanka has been the batsmen’s struggles against the local spinners. Mattiah Muralitharan has retired, but Philander isn’t underestimating Rangana Herath, the man who has filled the role vacated by the great off-spinner.
‘Spin is always a factor when you come to the subcontinent, that’s why they prepare wickets to suit their bowlers,’ Philander said. ‘He [Herath] is going to be a big threat, but our batsmen played him quite well in the last one-dayer in Hambantota, so hopefully we can continue to do so. I’d like to see our guys stepping up against the spinners and playing them to the best of their abilities.’
In fitness news, Philander has recovered from the viral infection which sidelined him for the last ODI and is ready to take his place in the Test XI. AB de Villiers is suffering from a tight right hamstring and was not able to keep wicket during Monday’s training session in Galle. He first experienced the tightness during his century in the final ODI, but it doesn’t seem too serious and he’s expected to be available for selection for the first Test.
In the opposition ranks, Mahela Jayawardene has announced that he will retire from Test cricket in August following the series against Pakistan. The 37-year-old will continue to play ODIs, presumably until the World Cup Next year. Thus far he has 11 493 Test runs to his name.
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