COLOMBO: Sri Lanka returned home victorious from their Zimbabwe tour on Tuesday but the national coach warned his side faced a “huge challenge” in South Africa next month.
Having comfortably beaten Zimbabwe in both Tests in Harare, Sri Lanka also lifted the triangular series trophy on Sunday, beating the hosts by six wickets in the final.
Although regular skipper Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal missed the entire tour due to injury, Sri Lanka rarely felt their absence as they lost just one game in the process of clinching the tri-series, which also involved the West Indies.
But even as Mathews told reporters Tuesday that both he and Chandimal had recovered and were ready to play, national coach Graham Ford said the South Africa tour in December would be a different ball game.
He said the players would have to improve in all three aspects of the game — batting, bowling and fielding — when they face the formidable Proteas.
“We’ve got a huge challenge coming our way,” Ford said shortly after arriving in Colombo.
“Everybody knows how well South Africa is playing. We have to improve in all three disciplines,” he said, adding that particular attention would have to be paid to fielding.
Sri Lanka, which also won a three-match home Test series against top ranked Australia in August, is ranked above Zimbabwe and the West Indies in both Test and ODI formats but below South Africa.
The team leaves for South Africa in the middle of December for three Tests, three T20 matches and five ODIs.
Ford said conditions in South Africa would be different to what they experienced in Zimbabwe and the selectors would have to take that into account when naming a squad.
But Sri Lanka Cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala said the team had received a huge boost with the latest win.
“We are rebuilding our team and we have a wonderful coach,” Sumathipala said of Ford, a former South African player.