South Africa will remain favourites but Sri Lanka can expect less treacherous batting conditions in the second Test starting at Kingsmead.
Sri Lanka were swept aside by an innings and 81 runs before tea on the third day in the first Test at Centurion, where their batsmen were unable to combat the home side’s fast-bowlers on a pitch with uneven bounce and extravagant sideways movement.
Shaun Pollock, a former South African captain, was among critics who felt the pitch at Centurion was loaded unfairly in favour of the bowlers and it seems likely that the surface at Kingsmead will offer a more even contest.
Pollock said pitches like that at Centurion did not benefit the South African team in the long-term.
“I don’t believe these conditions help with the development of our cricketers,” said Pollock. “As a South African supporter I feel we can compete with the best teams in the world on quality surfaces.”
The Kingsmead pitch is still likely to help the fast-bowlers, because it offers pace and bounce, but the bowlers will probably have to work harder for their wickets.
Sri Lanka were outclassed in the first Test but will be hoping to end what has been a winless year in Test cricket on a positive note. With batsmen of the calibre of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and captain Tillekeratne Dilshan, they have the potential to post a competitive total.
Sri Lanka’s bowling, though, lacks penetration following the retirement of off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and it is doubtful whether the call-up of fast-bowling reserves in the form of Dhammika Prasad and Kanishka Alvitigala will make a significant difference.
For South Africa, rookie fast-bowler Vernon Philander, who hurt his knee in the nets on Saturday, has been in irresistible form, taking 24 wickets in his first three Tests, including 10 for 102 at Centurion.