TELFORD VICE, Port Elizabeth
IF it’s Boxing Day it must be Kingsmead. Except that it isn’t. Or it won’t be on Monday, when South Africa and Sri Lanka clash in the first test at St George’s Park.
Perhaps there is nothing in the fact that Cricket South Africa did not schedule this year’s Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead, where it has been played 14 times – all of them in the past 25 years.
Or perhaps the suits were mindful that the last time South Africa played a Boxing Day test against the Lankans at Kingsmead, in 2011, the visitors won by 208 runs.
Rangana Herath was central to that jolting upset, taking match figures of 9/128 in Sri Lanka’s only victory among the 10 tests they have played in South Africa.
“It was a remarkable win,” slow left-armer Herath said on Friday. “That kind of achievement stays in your mind for a long time.”
Kingsmead is also the only South African venue where the Lankans have earned a draw, in the 2000 Boxing Day test.
Herath, of course, spoke at St George’s Park, some 900 kilometres down the east coast from Kingsmead.
“I wish we could go there and play another game but if we give 100% hopefully we can get the best out of the guys,” he said.
Another noteworthy fact about that Kingsmead test five years ago was that it marked the debut of Dinesh Chandimal, who scored two half-centuries.
Thirty-one tests into his career Chandimal has seven centuries to his credit and his return from injury, along with that of captain Angelo Mathews, gave Herath reasons to be cheerful.
“We missed Chandimal and Angelo a lot, so we have a much better combination in this series, a more settled side,” Herath said.
The visitors have reeled off five consecutive test victories. But three were at home against a navel-gazing Australian side and the other two in Zimbabwe, where the opposition would have been of questionable quality.
While Herath acknowledged that those successes had given his team confidence he knew the challenge of taking on South Africa in South Africa was on another level.
“Playing back home there is a lot of (support from the) people around us and assistance from the pitches, especially for the spinners,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ll get that kind of help in South Africa. But hopefully we’ll get some assistance for the fast bowlers.”
Even at St George’s Park? Yes. But don’t be surprised if in a few days’ time Herath counts South Africa’s oldest test ground among his favourites.