South Africa aims to stay dominant in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's Sri Lanka's Dhananjaya de Silva looks at a soccer ball after their practice session is disrupted due to rain ahead of the first test cricket match against South Africa in Galle, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Sri Lanka will play a two match test series with touring South Africa starting from Thursday. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

South Africa will look to maintain its impressive away record in the two-match test cricket series against Sri Lanka starting Thursday at Galle International Stadium

GALLE, Sri Lanka — South Africa will look to maintain its impressive away record in the two-match test cricket series against Sri Lanka starting Thursday at Galle International Stadium. In the last 10 years, the Proteas have lost away test series in India and England only, and they were last defeated by Sri Lanka in 2006.

Preparing for second-ranked South Africa is not the only challenge for the hosts.

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and team manager Asanka Gurusinha have been charged by the International Cricket Council with conduct contrary to the spirit of the game and have a hearing later Wednesday. All three have pleaded guilty and face a two-match suspension.

The charges came after Sri Lanka held up play on Day 3 of the second test against West Indies in St. Lucia in protest after Chandimal was accused of ball tampering. Chandimal was already suspended from the third test against West Indies for altering the condition of the ball last month.

"The hearing is today and we really don't know what will happen at the hearing. We are ready for any outcome. We don't know what will happen, but we are mentally prepared," middle-order batsman Roshen Silva said.

Seamer Suranga Lakmal is expected to lead the side in the absence of Chandimal.

Training was called off Wednesday due to rain and wet ground conditions, and bad weather is expected to play a major part in the test.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of bilateral cricket between South Africa and Sri Lanka after the former's readmission to the ICC following the end of apartheid. The South Africans have won 14 of the 25 tests between the countries, with only five victories for Sri Lanka.

"As many teams know, if they want to test themselves, they have got to play in away conditions. I believe South Africa has got a very proud record when touring away," South African captain Faf du Plessis said. "The last time we played here we did well to win the series."

South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn is making a comeback after a heel injury and the 35-year-old needs only three more wickets to become the outright highest test wicket-taker for South Africa. Former captain Shaun Pollock with 421 tops that list.

"I'm hoping to see Dale bowl really quickly again. He hasn't bowled for a long time, so he'll be excited to get the opportunity again," Du Plessis said. "It's a good sight to see when he gets the ball reversing, and he's running in and keeping those legs really fast."

The second and final test is at Colombo, starting July 20.

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