First Test preview: Sri Lanka v SA

The Test series between Sri Lanka and South Africa this month, starting in Galle, has a number of intriguing plot lines running through it, from a new Test skipper for the Proteas, to a home captain high on form.

The Test series between Sri Lanka and South Africa this month, starting in Galle, has a number of intriguing plot lines running through it, from a new Test skipper for the Proteas, to a home captain high on form.

The Proteas last won a Test series in Sri Lanka in 1993, and have only ever won two Tests on the island nation, the last of which was in 2000. The last two series between the sides in Sri Lanka were won by the hosts, in 2004 and 2006.

That being said, the Proteas go into this series on the back of their first ODI series win in the country, against expectations somewhat, and are the better-ranked Test side. They are second behind Australia by a fraction of a point, while Sri Lanka are sixth by a large margin.

Again, that being said, Sri Lanka's most recent Test series saw them beat England in the UK, and their captain, Angelo Mathews is on a run of form that will inspire a lot of confidence, especially as the hosts look to give Mahela Jayawardene a winning farewell.

The veteran batsman announced his retirement this week, and has four Tests to go until he hangs up the gloves in August: These two against SA, and then two more against Pakistan. Will we see one or two more big stands with Kumar Sangakkara?

But all eyes will be on Hashim Amla, South Africa's new Test captain. This will be his first challenge since taking up the role after Graeme Smith retired, and Amla was given the job ahead of AB de Villiers, who had seemingly been groomed for the job.

Amla's been handling the pressure well though, starting his tour with three centuries in four games, including two in the ODI series. He has insisted that the captaincy will not affect his batting, and he has appeared to enjoy the local batting tracks.

His success will of course rely on how his relatively settled team performs, with one change being that De Villiers will not keep wicket. His hamstring injury has healed enough for him to bat, but Quinton de Kock will keep wicket.

De Kock has only one Test to his name, and did not keep during his debut match against Australia earlier this year. He is well used to the Proteas bowlers though, as he is their ODI and T20 gloveman. He is set to bat at seven.

Otherwise, the bowling is expected to be same as usual, with JP Duminy acting as a second spinner to Imran Tahir. Coach Russell Domingo previously said he would not consider a third spinner, meaning Dane Piedt is unlikely to get a debut.

Sri Lanka's line up should see Dinesh Chandimal with the gloves again, despite being dropped from the ODI side, as Prasanna Jayawardene is still out with a finger injury picked up in England. Otherwise, Suranga Lakmal is back from injury, and Ajantha Mendis has been added.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For both sides, their key and in form men are the skippers. Angelo Mathews was in belligerent, aggressive form against England and scored centuries in each Test, as well as taking four wickets in the first innings at Leeds. He's been one of those players that thrives as a leader.

For the Proteas, Hashim Amla will be their key man, as he has been in great nick in Sri Lanka so far. With Dean Elgar set to open alongside Alviro Petersen, Amla's calm tenacity will be crucial if the openers get out early.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2012, One-off Test: South Africa won by 10 wickets in Cape Town<br>2011, Second Test: Sri Lanka won by 208 runs in Durban<br>2011, First Test: South Africa won by an innings and 81 runs in Centurion<br>2006, Second Test, Sri Lanka won by one wicket in Colombo<br>2006, First Test: Sri Lanka won by an innings and 153 runs in Colombo

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Sri Lanka:</i> Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Upul Tharanga, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kithuruwan Vithanage, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Chanaka Welagedara

<i>South Africa:</i> Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla (captain), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Stiaan van Zyl, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Quinton de Kock, Dane Piedt.

<b>Dates:</b> 16-20 July<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:00-12:00 (04:30-06:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:40-14:40 (07:10-09:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:00-17:00 (09:30-11:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Billy Bowden and Richard Kettleborough<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Nigel Llong<br><b>Match referee:</b> Jeff Crowe