Pitch report: Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo
We run the rule over the venue for the second and final Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo.
<b>Established:</b> 1915<br><b>Capacity:</b> 10,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> No<br><b>Ends:</b> Tennis Courts End, South End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Sinhalese Sports Club<br><b>Test History:</b> 36 Tests; 17 home wins; 6 away wins; 13 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 4 home wins; 6 draws<br><b>Last 10 tosses:</b> 5 batted first (2 wins, 1 loss, 2 draws); 5 bowled first (1 win, 4 draws)
<b>Overview</b><br>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.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>Sri Lanka's decision to bowl first in July 2012 afforded Pakistan a hefty first-innings declaration. Intermittent rain, though, marred days two, three and four to ensure a damp squib. Pakistan, having fielded just two seamers and three specialist spinners, took the esoteric and mental edge into the remainder of the series.
<b>They Said</b><br>"I would imagine that Sri Lanka will now try and prepare a pitch with significant turn from day one in an effort to play to their strength and even up the series." – former South Africa captain <b>Kepler Wessels</b>.
"I wouldn't really say that lengths change, its more the line of attack. You need to sit on that off-stump line, and make sure you get the lbw into the game, the wider ball becomes the nick off. Hopefully we can adjust really quickly and assess conditions accordingly. There is a bit of moisture and overhead conditions around which will favour the swing bowlers. We have to wait and see what the deck looks like on Tuesday and on the morning of the Test. Spin is always a factor when you come to the sub-continent, that's why they prepare wickets to suit their bowlers." – South African seamer <b>Vernon Philander</b>.
"As a spin bowler, working out the conditions is key. Sometimes the ball does not turn as much as you think. It's key to work out at what pace you want to bowl. It all depends on what type of role you are playing too. If you are more in the defensive mode, or the captain wants the spinner to be more defensive at certain stages, then you have to fit in. Dane Piedt will have to quickly work out what pace he wants to bowl on those wickets. Yes, you think the sub-continent wickets will turn but sometimes they don't spin that much. They are certainly low wickets. Our wickets in South Africa don't turn that much, but they produce extra bounce." – erstwhile South Africa spinner <b>Nicky Boje</b>.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>Predictably, the veteran <b>Mahela Jayawardene</b> and <b>Kumar Sangakkara</b> have capitalised, entirely, here. Almost a quarter of Jayawardene's 11,506 Test career runs have been scored at this venue, while Sangakkara's SSC average is on the brink of 80. The stalwart pair, of course, gathered <i>that</i> record 624-run partnership against the South Africans here in 2006.
Bowling-wise, spinners <b>Rangana Herath</b> has bowled in excess of 400 overs in eight Tests here, with a ground average of almost 40 considerably inferior to a career aggregate of 31.12. Fellow slow bowler Ajantha Mendis' recall would be warranted, after a dozen wickets in two fixtures at the SSC.
South African batsmen <b>Hashim Amla</b> and <b>AB de Villiers</b> and fast bowler <b>Dale Steyn</b> are the three survivors from the visit eight years ago. Amla failed twice and Steyn struck three times in the only Sri Lankan innings, while de Villiers garnered a consolation century in heavy defeat.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Plenty of thundershowers predicted throughout, unfortunately, but hopefully typically patchy – and not consistent enough to negatively affect the result. An 80 percent chance of rain in the lead-up, too, is bound to trouble adequate preparation of the pitch – which might be a blessing in disguise for a venue renowned for over-manicured stalemates.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>Sri Lanka have a formidable record at the SSC, where they've lost just two of their last 21 Test matches. However, six of the last 10 matches here have been drawn on pitches which offered very little help for the bowlers. Turn has been crucial here since the turn of the century – good spin bowling has generally been the difference between a bore draw and a positive result for the hosts.
But unless the groundsman has unexpectedly added some life to the pitch, which hasn't seen Test cricket since 2012, it is unlikely either side will have the firepower to take 20 wickets on a surface that generally gets slower as the match progresses. That said, Dale Steyn begged to differ in similar conditions in Galle – and will pursue a repeat performance.
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