x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Kingsmead memories give Sri Lanka hope against South Africa

Pressure on Lions' batting trio to fire, and the hosts are challenged by bad memories of Kingsmead and injury doubt over Philander.

Vernon Philander has taken four five-wicket hauls in three Tests of his short career already. Themba Hadebe / AP Photo
Vernon Philander has taken four five-wicket hauls in three Tests of his short career already. Themba Hadebe / AP Photo

A poor track record at the venue of the second Test against South Africa would have the visitors fancy a comeback or sorts when they meet at Kingsmead tomorrow.

Sri Lanka's hopes were boosted with the news that seamer Vernon Philander, who has been a revelation with four five-wicket hauls in three Tests - including the innings win over Sri Lanka last week - has hurt his knee.

"He came off and received the necessary treatment from the physiotherapist, including icing and strapping," Mohammed Moosajee, the team manager, said. "He will be treated overnight, and he will come and bowl tomorrow once some of the swelling and inflammation settles. If anything untoward happens we will decide."

Reserve paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe is himself not fully fit following a muscle strain, leaving Sri Lanka with their best chance to draw level in the series.

The Durban venue has not been a happy one for the home side as it was here against the same opposition, that South Africa infamously miscalculated their target and bowed out of the 2003 World Cup.

Needing one run off the last ball in a rain-affected match, Mark Boucher blocked off the ball thinking victory was already secured. Instead, the dramatic tie forced out Shaun Pollock as captain in a major reorganisation of South African cricket and ushered in Graeme Smith as the country's youngest leader.

South Africa had also fallen to surprise heavy defeats to India, England and Australia in their last three Tests at Kingsmead to go three years without a series win at home.

Now, Smith is a veteran and the Lanka Lions are in desperate times having gone 15 Tests without a win.

"For us to go into this Test match knowing that South Africa doesn't have a good record here is good," said Sri Lanka batsman Kumar Sangakkara, who played in that World Cup game. "It's something for us to work with."

Anura Tennekoon, the team manager, also demanded an improved display from his players, especially the misfiring batsmen, who amassed 180 and 150 in their two innings.

"We admit we were not on top of our game in the first Test. We have spoken about our failings and we have had some serious talks about our approach to the game on South African surfaces," Tennekoon said.

"The time has arrived for us to redeem the situation. We want to turn things around before we head for the final Test in Cape Town over the New Year."

The famed trio of captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene - who scored just 60 runs between them at Centurion - will need to do better, but the track record of Kingsmead still makes rival captain Smith appear more wary.

"It's been extremely disappointing the way we've played here at Kingsmead," Smith said. "All of us in the squad know that."

"There's motivation, you know, to try and put that right," Smith said. "We're here with a fresh five days that lie ahead of us and I want to turn that around and perform well here. I think everybody in the team feels the same way."

* Agencies


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