Sri Lanka would face South Africa in the ODI series and are expected to repeat the same feat like Test series…….
Sri Lanka might have won the Test series comprehensively, but they cannot afford to take South Africa for granted in the limited-overs leg. Sri Lanka and South Africa play 5 ODIs and a solitary T20I, beginning from Sunday. Sri Lanka had to break little sweat in whitewashing South Africa in the 2-match Test series. Their spinners picked up the 37 out of the 40 wickets in the Tests, but the ODI series will be a different ball game. This series will be contested between the No. 3 and the No. 8 teams in the world. But once the action gets underway, the matches are most likely to turn out to be much closer than their rankings.
For Sri Lanka, a fully-fit Angelo Mathews is once again available to lead the young unit. His experience with both bat and ball are sure to come in handy. Many in the team still look up to Mathews and his inputs will surely go a long way in moulding Sri Lanka’s future. The Sri Lankan spinners may have done most of the damage in the Tests, but the fast bowlers could very well turn out to be the key in the ODI series.
Let’s rewind to some three years ago, when South Africa toured India for a bilateral series. The tour started off with the limited-overs leg (3 T20Is and 3 ODIs) followed by a 4-match Test series.
South African fast bowlers bowled exceedingly well and picked up 30 wickets in the entire series, out of which 27 were picked up by Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Morkel has retired and Steyn is not part of the current ODI team, but the Proteas still have Rabada and is most likely to share the attack with Lungi Ngidi and also Andlie Phehlukwayo or Junior Dala. However, these fast bowlers took a beating from India in South Africa recently, but one cannot deny that they possess the skills to trouble batsmen around the world. Especially, if the batting unit is as unsettled as the Sri Lankan line-up, who are yet to determine their best XI.
The Proteas will face many more overs from the fast bowlers in the ODIs compared to the Tests and will be up for the challenge. The likes of Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla will once again be key to their batting. One must not forget the prowess Aiden Markram and David Miller possess.
Sri Lanka have not had the best of times in ODIs at home. They were whitewashed by India recently and before that, they lost a series to Zimbabwe as well. But it is a new look team now heading in a new direction, hopefully, the right one. Sri Lanka had as many as nine captains last year, but have once again gone back to the experience of Mathews, who has seen Sri Lanka at their very low and will be determined to turn things around against a strong team like South Africa.
Although Sri Lanka will be playing at home, they may not have the advantage, but they certainly have the momentum going into the series. Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath were the chief destructors in the Tests. With neither Herath nor Perera in the ODI squad, South Africa can breathe a sigh of relief. But they cannot rest on their laurels for too long as Sri Lanka possess a troika of talented spin bowlers in Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya and newbie Prabath Jayasuriya.
What is exciting to see is the talent that Sri Lanka have in their fast bowling department. Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka have a lot of pace in them and will be interesting to see how the South African batsmen deal with them. Also, it will definitely be a headache to the captain as to who to play and who to leave out. These are the selection conundrum that Sri Lanka would love to have.
Having two new balls in ODIs has been the talk of the town of late, with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and most recently Steyn talks about their dislike towards the concept as it completely rules out reverse swing. As a result, we have seen many high scoring games in the recent past, which has killed competition. Will be interesting to see how the reverse swing or the lack of it will play a part in this series. And who will it affect more?
Winning the Test series was no doubt a good beginning for Sri Lanka. But as far as the ODIs are concerned it is a level playing field. South Africa may not have AB de Villiers, but they still have a team, who if they play to their potential can uproot Sri Lanka as well. After a long time, there is a sense of positivity in the Sri Lankan camp and would love to see that turn into results. With World Cup is not far away and this might be a good chance for Sri Lanka to pull up their socks and zero in on their best combination. Most teams have already begun the process of doing that, Sri Lanka will not want to be left behind on that front.