Hashim Amla’s first battle ahead

2014-06-29 15:00

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The next big challenge for the Proteas will be to find their best balanced bowling attack to suit subcontinent conditions if they want to break a 21-year drought in Sri Lanka.

Coach Russell Domingo and his men depart for their tour of Sri Lanka today, where they will compete in three One-Day Internationals (ODIs), followed by two tests.

The Proteas will embark on their first tour officially without stalwart and record-breaking former captain Graeme Smith, who retired earlier this year. Jacques Kallis also bowed out of the game late last year.

Their absence leaves room for youngsters Dean Elgar, Quinton de Kock and rookie off-spinner Dane Piedt to put their hands up and even cement their places in the new-look side. The Proteas are a side in transition and places are up for grabs.

A series win for South Africa, who commence a new era under the tutelage of run-scoring machine Hashim Amla, will see Domingo’s charges reclaim the ICC number one test ranking they recently relinquished to Australia.

Albeit with their focus on the test series, it will also be interesting to see how Domingo and his misfiring ODI squad will fare given the little time they have had to prepare.

The 31-year-old Amla succeeded ODI captain AB de Villiers and T20 skipper Faf du Plessis in the running for the top job, which was announced earlier this month.

While the series is short, it will also give valuable insights into how the Proteas will shape up under Amla’s quiet and understated leadership. It will come in handy against a street-smart and battle-hardened Sri Lankan outfit that has dominated South Africa at home in past encounters.

Sri Lanka will also be buoyed by their monumental 1-0 series win against England, where they out-batted and out-bowled England in conditions where Sri Lankan teams have faltered in years gone by.

This test series win proved the Proteas have not only veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to worry about, but also captain Angelo Mathews, who led his side’s second-innings fightback to record his best test of 160 at Leeds.

What was surprising was the potency of their pace bowling, which has long been seen as their weakness.

Mathews could be the trump card for the Lankans with his flourishing form with the bat lower down the order, while Dinesh Chandimal again proved his worth as a versatile middle-order counterattacker.

Meanwhile, back home, the Proteas saw off their last bit of preparation at the CSA High Performance Centre in Pretoria, much to the satisfaction of fitness and conditioning coach Greg King.

South Africa will be without pacemen Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt, who are recovering from an ankle operation and a knee injury, respectively.

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