Second Test preview: Sri Lanka v South Africa

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Opportunity will knock for South Africa to reclaim the number one berth in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground this week.

Opportunity will knock for South Africa to reclaim the number one berth in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground this week.

Mere decimals separate leaders Australia and the second-placed Proteas – and even a draw in Colombo will suffice. Given the magnitude of the possibility, the South Africans aren't likely to change the XI that emerged triumphant by 153 runs in Galle – and therefore align with <a href='http://sports.williamhill.com/' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>all sports betting including cricket at william hill</b></a>.

Fast bowler Dale Steyn's ability to successfully combat countering conditions in the series opener has promised more. The temptation to play a second specialist spinner in the uncapped Dane Piedt – or replaced leg-spinner Imran Tahir should ultimately be avoided.

Seamer Vernon Philander, meanwhile, will be afforded the opportunity to clean a record otherwise hampered by ball-tampering allegations and a wicketless performance in Galle. The arrival of batting consultant is bound to help captain Hashim Amla, whose elevation will be questioned if two more failures with the bat occur.

The Sri Lankans have lost momentum since a historic series win in the United Kingdom earlier this year, since slipping to ODI and Test defeats to South Africa. The omission of wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal – and inclusion of the burgeoning Niroshan Dickwella – will facilitate a pressing quest to rectify.

Right-armer Dhammika Prasad, with more pace and bounce than Chanaka Welegedara, will likely replace the injured Shaminda Eranga. Reverse swing for Prasad – and Steyn and company – will be key in conditions characteristically and historically primed for a stalemate.

The battle, indeed, will be two-fold for the Sri Lankans and South Africans – trump each other and overcome a pitch expected to be rather docile. In the end, yet again, all and sundry will rue the lack of a third Test regardless.

<b>Key Men</b><br>Time continues to run out for the veteran <b>Mahela Jayawardene</b>, whose retirement from Test cricket will arrive later this year. Returning to the scene of <i>that</i> monstrous partnership alongside Sangakkara against the Proteas in 2006, the stalwart must deliver.

A reasonably settled South African unit has no room for passengers – and leg-spinner <b>Imran Tahir</b> must prove there is more to the talent than steady performances in Twenty20 International and ODI cricket. Piedt is waiting to pounce on the waning Tahir's berth.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2014: First Test: South Africa won by 153 runs in Colombo<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

<b>Likely XIs</b><br><i>Sri Lanka:</i> Upul Tharanga, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal.

<i>South Africa:</i> Alviro Peterson, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

<b>Dates:</b> 24-28 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> Richard Kettleborough and Nigel Llong<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Billy Bowden<br><b>Match referee:</b> Jeff Crowe

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