Five Lessons for South Africa from England Ahead of Sri Lanka Series
South Africa will play Sri Lanka in three one-day internationals and two Tests in the next month.
While not many of their players have been playing competitive cricket recently, Sri Lanka have just finished their tour of England.
It was the ideal time for the Proteas to gather some intel on the opposition. Sri Lanka were very impressive against England in both Test and one-day formats, and they weren’t even playing in conditions they were familiar with.
There was much to be learned, but here are five of the most important lessons.
1. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene Are Still Immense
Kumar Sangakkara averaged 85.50 in the two Tests against England and Mahela Jayawardene averaged 43.50.
The last time South Africa toured Sri Lanka, these two put up 624 runs together in one Test. They might be heading towards the twilight of their careers, but that certainly doesn't mean their ability is fading.
On wickets that will suit them far better than the tracks in England, Sangakkara and Jayawardene are going to be a serious threat to South Africa's bowlers.
2. Angelo Mathews Doesn't Have the Hang of Captaincy Quite Yet
Although Angelo Mathews was impressive against England, both with the bat and his overall captaincy, there were a few signs that he does panic sometimes.
Against England on the last day of the last Test, when Sri Lanka were desperate for a wicket, he made numerous bowling changes to try and get the final wicket. It eventually worked, with the penultimate ball of the final over of the day.
But overall, it's good news for South Africa. If they can get Mathews under pressure, he is likely to make a few minor blips which they could use to their advantage.
3. There Isn't Much Depth in the Batting
Sri Lanka’s batting relies heavily on a core of three batsmen. Sangakkara, Jaywardene and Mathews make up the bulk of Sri Lanka's runs.
Rangana Herath showed in the second Test against England he can play a rearguard cameo here and there, but the tailenders won't contribute much.
While conditions will be difficult for South Africa's quicks, the tail should be fairly easy to dismantle for somebody of Dale Steyn's calibre. Getting the other three out is going to be the hard part.
4. Spin Bowling Is Sri Lanka's Forte on Sri Lankan Pitches
Herath picked up eight wickets in two Tests in England, but they came at an average of 43.87. Of course this happened on wickets that weren't conducive to spin.
When there were signs of turn, Herath looked very, very threatening. That's bad news for South Africa, but the good news is that Sri Lanka will be over-reliant on their spinners.
Shaminda Eranga was good as a quick, but it would seem that he might struggle on pitches that don't offer much for fast bowlers. Picking runs off the fast bowlers should be South Africa's aim. Finding a way to survive overs upon overs of spin will be their challenge.
5. Sri Lanka Have Got Bottle in the ODI Format
The one-day series was an odd one. Sri Lanka lost the first ODI, then hammered England in the second, then lost emphatically in the third.
They finished it off by winning the last two ODIs, both with thrilling endings under pressure. South Africa aren't exactly known for holding their nerve, and if it comes down to clutch matches, they might struggle against a Sri Lankan team which has had some practice.