x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Proteas shuffle the pack for final Test against Sri Lanka

South Africa regroups for Sri Lanka by adding Alviro Petersen and Vernon Philander back to the roster as the Test series moves to Newlands.

Vernon Philander returns to a South Africa side that's still shocked over losing to Sri Lanka at Kingsmead.
Vernon Philander returns to a South Africa side that's still shocked over losing to Sri Lanka at Kingsmead.

CAPE TOWN // Stung by a shock defeat in the second Test in Durban, South Africa will have to overcome a confident Sri Lanka team to gain an elusive series win in the third and final Test, starting at Newlands today.

Unlike the case with Durban, where South Africa have now lost four matches in a row, history is on the home team's side at Newlands.

South Africa have won five of their past seven matches at the ground, although their two most recent New Year Tests - against England and India - were drawn.

After winning the first Test at Centurion by an innings and 81 runs, South Africa seemed set to break a sequence of four successive home series which they have failed to win, especially as the Sri Lankans were written off as a weak side.

Among the critics was the former South African captain Kepler Wessels, who suggested before the series that the home selectors could afford to experiment against a side which he believed did not offer adequate opposition.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, had a tongue-in-cheek dig at Wessels after the 208-run Durban win.

"Thanks to Kepler for motivating the team," he said. Now it is South Africa who have to prove their credentials in front of their home supporters after a year of moderate results and administrative turmoil regarding unauthorised bonuses paid to the chief executive Gerald Majola.

Despite calls for drastic changes, the South African selectors have stuck by the squad originally announced for the Test series and made only two changes.

The opening batsman Alviro Petersen has been recalled, with his case bolstered by a century after he was released to play in a domestic first-class match while the second Test was on, and the opening bowler Vernon Philander has recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of the Kingsmead Test.

Petersen plays at the expense of Ashwell Prince, with Jacques Rudolph dropping down the order after opening in the first two Tests, and the fast bowling Marchant de Lange makes way for Philander despite taking seven for 81 in the first innings in Durban.

After their historic win in Durban, which has been acclaimed as one of the country's greatest Test achievements, Sri Lanka are unlikely to make changes, with almost all their players having made a contribution to the victory.

"Everyone has given 100 per cent for the team," said Dilshan, the captain.


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