After South Africa’s 2-0 drubbing in the away Test series against Sri Lanka last year, spinner Keshav Maharaj said it is payback time as his side are going to try to dominate the opposition in home conditions.
“Whichever team comes here we’re pretty much going to try and dominate them. Especially Sri Lanka, who were really dominant against us in Sri Lanka,” Maharaj said on Monday, 11 February, ahead of the two-Test series. “Now they are in our conditions and hopefully we can put in a dominant display in the two Tests.”
When South Africa last toured Sri Lanka in July 2018, they were handed heavy defeats in both the Tests by the hosts. Since that series, Faf du Plessis and his men have swept a three-Test series at home in December-January against Pakistan, and they would take the confidence into the next assignment.
Maharaj added that South Africa are not going to take anything for granted, saying: “Every series you play you want to be dominant and whitewash the opposition – for want of a better word.
“This should be our fortress. When people come here they should be on the back foot when they do take the field. But we’re taking nothing for granted, whoever our opponents are.”
South Africa currently have one of the best pace bowling attacks, featuring Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier.
However, one major concern for the hosts is that the venues for the two Tests – Durban’s Kingsmead and St George’s Park of Port Elizabeth – are both likely to provide at least some assistance to the spinners, which could work to Sri Lanka’s advantage.
“At Kingsmead, it’s not your swing and fast bowling wicket that we were used to 10 or 15 years ago,” Maharaj pointed out. “The wicket will wear down and slow down significantly I would say. I think it’s just a patience game at Kingsmead now.
“It’s a little bit slower than expected. But with the sun about, it may make the wicket harden up and get a little bit quicker than what we’re used to as well,” he added.
South Africa don’t have a good record in Durban having lost six out of the eight Tests they have played at the venue, but they do have a decent record in Port Elizabeth, where they also have beaten Sri Lanka once in 2016.
Maharaj, who was the joint highest wicket-taker in the 2018 series against Sri Lanka, is confident, however, of South Africa’s chances in the first Test at the venue.
“Things do change, and the mindset changes. This Test unit is a different team from what we were on previous occasions playing at Kingsmead. I am confident we can get over the line and change the mindset that’s from the public, and from the players.”