Ends: Tennis Courts End, South End
Home Team: Sinhalese Sports Club
Test History: 41 Tests; 19 home wins; 8 away wins; 14 draws
Last 10 Tests: 4 home wins; 2 away wins; 4 draws
Last 10 tosses: 7 batted first (5 wins, 2 draws); 3 bowled first (1 loss; 2 draws)
The Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, although overhauled by the R Premadasa Stadium as Colombo’s main cricket venue, remains the headquarters of Sri Lanka Cricket – and was formerly known as Maitland Place.
The ground still features many of the original grass banks for spectators, but the giant scoreboard and sightscreens are the most striking sights around the oval.
The venue has been owned by the SSC since 1952 – and was used as an Allied air base during the Second World War. The latest addition is the large media centre that dominates one end of the ground.
Original club membership was limited to Sinhalese men, who kept traditional British customs in terms of dress, grammar and table manners – as they drank fine scotch and held ballroom dancing evenings.
Hundreds from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane powered India to a first innings total of 622 for 9 against Sri Lanka with six of the tourists batsmen passing fifty.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja then took over. The India spinners took five wicket hauls in Sri Lanka’s first and second innings respectively as the hosts were forced to follow on.
Sri Lanka suffered an innings and 53 run defeat in the end as India clinched the three match series with a win in what was the second Test.
Rangana Herath said ahead of the match: “It is very important that we win a series, and that we win at home. They are the No. 2-ranked team. We need a victory to gain confidence, so it’s a very important game.”
Faf du Plessis urged his charges to trust their defence on a wicket that will turn: “The important part of playing spin in Test cricket is trusting your defence. We need to try and put pressure back on the spinners as well, with what you are doing. The guys worked really hard on their game plan and trying to be positive against spin – which is an element of playing spinners well. You have to also trust your defence – so that’s two parts.”
Former Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews has a brilliant record here, averaging 65.50 and scoring two tons and three fifties in 14 innings. Dimuth Karunaratne also scored a hundred at the venue last time out.
Bowling-wise, spinner Herath is streets ahead of his team-mates, with 77 wickets in 13 Tests at an average of 26.11.
Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 139 in 2014 pads his figures somewhat but with 185 runs in four innings he leads the way for the Proteas and is one of only two Proteas to ever ton up at the venue.
Dale Steyn’s haul of seven in two matches at the venue puts him at the head of the Proteas wicket-takers at the venue in the current group two behind Brett Schultz record of nine.
The weather is expected to be warm with showers possible on all five days of the Test but then that is normal for this time of year.
Batting first seems to be the best course of action here, as bowling first in recent years hasn’t provided a positive result. The pacemen will want to do well early on because spin will dominate soon after that.
It’s a slow, even track, and a batsman with a modicum of common sense can do well, even if it’s at plodding pace. South Africa may stand some chance of getting a positive result if they bat first and pile on the runs.
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