Cricket

Sri Lanka seek to break ODI malaise in Centurion


SRI LANKA TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 2019

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Sri Lanka come into the clash on a four-match losing streak. © AFP

South Africa have just four more ODIs to go before their World Cup opener against hosts England on May 30 and they’re running out of time to sort out their combination for the mega event. Hashim Amla’s inconsistent form, JP Duminy’s injury concern etc have forced the selectors to try out different hands at the last minute when a settled lot should ideally be enjoying valuable match practice.

South Africa, despite playing at home, recently escaped with a 3-2 win over Pakistan in a series where they were really pushed by the visitors. Going into the World Cup, they would want to go in with a good mindset, and they were led ably by Faf du Plessis in the first ODI against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers on Sunday.

Quinton de Kock’s striking form comes as a big relief to the side, which is struggling to sort out the opening combination. Reeza Hendricks has been blowing hot and cold and with the ignored Aiden Markram making a strong statement in the domestic one-day competition, where he has scored 169 and 139 in back-to-back games, his place could be under threat if he doesn’t perform. The selectors have also clarified that Amla has not been dropped, and that he remains a senior member of the squad, which further increases the pressure on Hendricks for his spot.

The bowling department looks good with Dale Steyn returning back fit and fast, alongside the world-class Kagiso Rabada and the likes of Lungi Ngidi, who impressed with three wickets in the first game. Imran Tahir proved at Jo’Burg why his wrist spin is so valuable to the side by triggering a collapse in the middle overs.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka too have a lot to ponder. The leadership role has changed hands and is being owned by Lasith Malinga, who returns as ODI captain. Batting has been Sri Lanka’s biggest problem. A dismal show against England at home was bettered considerably in New Zealand, albeit on an unsuccessful note. Angelo Mathews’s hamstring injury takes out valuable experience in the middle order, but the good thing is the form Kusal Perera has shown of late. The left-hander notched up a hundred in New Zealand, while he also played a match-winning hand in the Durban Test.

Thisara Perera too has been striking cleanly, while the visitors would want Kusal Mendis to continue the good work from the first ODI, where he top-scored with 60. Debutant Oshada Fernando too was impressive. Come Wednesday (March 6), Malinga and Co. would be wary of not letting the opposition in by much in the middle orders.

The lift on Akila Dananjaya’s ban boosts the side as he adds mystery to a line-up that has the ability to threaten set batsmen, alongside the likes of Malinga, Lakshan Sandakan and the rapidly-improving Vishwa Fernando.

When: South Africa vs Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, March 6, 13:00 local time

Where: SuperSport Park, Centurion

What to expect: The pitch at Centurion is generally batsman-friendly for ODIs and it was a belter of a wicket in its latest appearance, when South Africa emerged victorious in a rain-curtailed high-scoring game against Pakistan. The weather in the build-up to the game is gloomy, but it is expected to clear for in time for a game of cricket on Wednesday.

Team news:

Both teams are set to try out new faces in their bid to figure out their side for the World Cup. Anrich Nortje debuted at the Wanderers while Dale Steyn rested on the sidelines. With the former impressing with 1 for 33 in 7 overs, including a maiden over, it is likely that he will retain the spot even is Steyn returns.

Sri Lanka went it with just two front-line pacers in the first ODI and this could change should there be more grass left of the pitch. In that case, Lakshan Sandakan could make way for Kasun Rajitha/Isuru Udana.

What they said:

“He is by no means out of our plans. If you look at the top five that’s here right now, it’s the five guys who have consistently been the biggest scorers over the last season – Aiden has had some really good opportunities in One-Day cricket, We know he is a better player than his figures over the 16 matches he’s played would say.” – Faf du Plessis on Aiden Markam.

© Cricbuzz

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