Dale Steyn will have the opportunity to break Shaun Pollock’s record as South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker from the very first day of South Africa’s tour on the island, after stand-in Sri Lanka captain Suranga Lakmal chose to bat first on a pitch that is expected to break up and take turn as the match progresses. Steyn is making his comeback after seven months on the sidelines with a heel injury, and needs three more wickets to overtake Pollock, who admitted he has been waiting “to see the record go”.
South Africa included a second specialist spinner in the pack: left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi, at the expense of a seventh specialist batsman. Shamsi has only played one Test for South Africa so far – the pink-ball match in Adelaide in November 2016.
Having also opted for all three frontline quicks – Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada – South Africa had to bench Theunis de Bruyn, alongside Lungi Ngidi and legspinner Shaun von Berg.
Sri Lanka went further, with three spinners in the XI and Lakmal as their only seamer, further indicating they expect spin to play an important role. They dropped Lahiru Kumara, who took 17 wickets at 19.88 in three Tests against West Indies to be Sri Lanka’s highest wicket-taker in the series, and are also without Dinesh Chandimal.
The captain, along with coach Chandika Hathurusingha and manager Asanka Gurusinha, is still awaiting the outcome of the code of conduct hearing but has accepted he will sit out at least the Test series.
South Africa: 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Vernon Philander, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Tabraiz Shamsi, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Dale Steyn
Sri Lanka: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Roshen Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Suranga Lakmal (capt), 11 Lakshan Sandakan
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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