South African captain Faf du Plessis said he hoped a grassy St George’s Park pitch would negate Sri Lanka’s spin threat in the first Test starting on Monday.
“There’s a little more grass on the wicket than might be normal,” Du Plessis said in his pre-match press conference.
“That is making sure that we take their most dangerous player out of the game.”
Du Plessis was referring to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka’s match-winner in their only victory in 10 previous Tests in South Africa. Herath took nine wickets when Sri Lanka won in Durban in 2011/12.
But Du Plessis said it was normal for the St George’s pitch to help the spinners in the latter stages of a Test match.
“The pitch looks very dry and Sri Lanka brings a different style of play to Australia [where South Africa won a series last month]. They have really good spinners so our focus has been on making sure we prepare for that.”
Du Plessis said he was looking for more consistency from the South African batsmen.
“As a collective batting unit, each of our top seven has had good games and got hundreds but what we are looking for is more consistency and to push that bar a bit higher,” he said.
Du Plessis added that South Africa could not afford to underestimate their opponents, despite their poor record in South Africa and them having a young, largely inexperienced team.
“Young guys can pose the same threat as more experienced players, even more so sometimes because they bring something different.”
But he said he expected South Africa’s pace bowlers to pose a challenge to the tourists. “There should be enough in the pitch for the seamers,” he said.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, meanwhile, said his team had prepared well and that the young batsmen in the side had stepped up to fill the gaps left by Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakeratne Dilshan, who have all retired recently.