CT 2017, Match 3, SA v SL Preview: Struggling Islanders face strong Proteas

CT 2017, Match 3, SA v SL Preview: Struggling Islanders face strong Proteas

Sri Lanka is the lighter team on paper but can spring a surprise, which South Africa are wary about.

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa
Kagiso Rabada of South Africa celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka and South Africa have one Champions Trophy each in their cabinet. Both sides have not played a single final post their wins. While South Africa starts this tournament as frontrunners to lift the title, Sri Lanka are struggling as a unit and are labelled as the ‘underdogs’ for this tournament.

South Africa might have lost the 3-match ODI series against England last week; they have ensured that they have had proper game-time in English conditions ahead of this eight-team tournament. After losing the first two ODIs, the Proteas came back strongly to knock England off in the final game. The new-ball pair of Rabada and Parnell rocked the English top order by picking 6 wickets in the first 5 overs, the worst results ever after 5 overs in the history of ODI cricket. South Africa certainly has the personnel to win the 18-day tournament but have known to succumb to pressure in big ICC events. They need to start this tournament on a high and playing against Sri Lanka, presents them with a perfect opportunity.

Sri Lanka hasn’t had the best of days in international cricket in the recent past. Their ODI fortunes haven’t been any different. They were handed a shock defeat by Scotland in one of their practice games which stunned the cricketing world. The Islanders batted well to score 318 and 356 against Australia and New Zealand respectively in the warm-up clashes but their bowling could not defend the huge totals. Angelo Mathews had said that playing as the underdogs is good for his side as they won’t be under pressure at all. Playing against South Africa will be a tall ask and the Mathews-led side will have to play out of their skins to win this clash.

Toss: Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to field

Captains speak

Upul Tharanga: We will bowl first, overcast conditions – there might be some help early on. Hopefully, Mathews will be ready for the next game. The management has faith in me, hopefully, I will live upto expectations. Three seaners for us, Lasith Malinga is back and that gives us confidence. WE are going into the game as underdogs which is good for us.

AB de Villiers: We were bowling first as well, but we are confident about our abilities – we are well prepared, we found our rhythm towards the end of the ODI series against England, we are well prepared and raring to go. We are playing Morne Morkel, David Miller and Imran Tahir are back as well. We are not thinking of winning the trophy as of now, just want to win each and every game.

Playing XI:

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga(c), Niroshan Dickwella(w), Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lasith Malinga

South Africa: Quinton de Kock(w), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers(c), David Miller, Jean-Paul Duminy, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir

Focus will be on:

Kagiso Rabada

The 22-year old Rabada in his short international career has shown immense ability with the ball. He swept through the top order of England last week to win the game for his side with a haul of 4/39. Rabada swings the ball at pace and has a lethal short ball which can surprise the best in the world. His ability to bowl yorkers towards the end of the innings makes him a priceless asset for the Proteas. The conditions in England will only favour this young paceman, who, at a very young age, is the leader of the South African attack.

Upul Tharanga

Tharanga has been in decent form leading up to the tournament. The opening batsman got a fifty and a magnificent century in the practice games in the last week of May. In 8 ODIs this year, Tharanga has scored 308 runs at 38.50. His strike rate of 92.77 also matches today’s standards. The left-hander might also have to lead the side as regular skipper Mathews is injured. Tharanga is a fine opening batsman who can make runs in testing conditions. At 32, Tharanga has the right temperament, technique and experience to perform for his side at the big stage.

Quinton de Kock

Young de Kock is one of the most existing young batsmen going around in world cricket. He might still look like a schoolboy but has already appeared in 82 ODIs for his country, in which he has scored 3410 runs at 43.71 including 12 centuries. The 24-year old stumper has established an outstanding opening combination with Hashim Amla. Behind the wicket, de Kock is safe as a house and very athletic due to his great agility. The left-hander is a kind of a batsman who can take the game away from you in a matter of a few overs. He is an exceptional stroke maker and has the technique to counter the moving ball early in the innings.

Team Combinations

South Africa

The Proteas have a settled side with Amla and de Kock at the top of the order. Faf du Plessis, De Villiers and JP Duminy have wealth of experience between themselves to do the job in the middle order. All three are unique in their own way and can finish games for their side. Big hitting Miller will bat at No. 6 and his job will be to get as many as possible in the final overs. All-rounder Chris Morris gives them the right balance and depth in the batting. Rabada, Parnell and young Phehlukwayo will be the fast bowlers for South Africa. Imran Tahir will be the lone spinner in the side apart from the part-time off spin of Duminy.

Sri Lanka

Tharanga will be the key at the top of the order. It remains to be seen who will accompany him as Sri Lanka has tried Kusal Perera, Dickwella and Gunathilaka with Tharanga at the top in the last 2 months. Chandimal and Kusal Mendis will have to carry the middle order on their shoulders if Mathews missing this opening game due to an injury. The twin Perera’s – Kusal and Thisara – can gather quick runs in the latter half of the innings. Malinga’s return to the ODI colours will only boost the side. He will lead the attack alongside Nuwan Pradeep and Lakmal. Sri Lanka looks a little light on paper but they do have useful players in their side who can come up with a few match-winning performances.


Stat Attack

2 – Sixes required by Hashim Amla to complete 50 sixes in ODI cricket

1 – Wicket required by Nuwan Kulasekara to complete 200 ODI wickets. He will be the 5th player from Sri Lanka to achieve this feat.

81 – Runs required by Upul Tharanga to complete 6,000 ODI runs.