Durban: Having scored a stunning come-from-behind series win in the Twenty20 Internationals, Sri Lanka was brought thudding back to earth in the first One-Day International by a formidable South African outfit in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
How quickly the visiting side recovers mentally from that eight-wicket drubbing will go a long way towards ensuring it draws level in the second game of five at Kingsmead in Durban on Wednesday.
The 2-1 victory in the T20I series went a little way towards making up for the 0-3 loss in the preceding Test series, but Upul Tharanga’s men again fell well short at St George’s Park.
Missing Angelo Mathews, the regular skipper, through an ankle injury sustained in the second T20I, Sri Lanka’s batting once again came unstuck by South Africa through the leg-spin of Imran Tahir and the left-arm swing at pace of Wayne Parnell.
Only Kusal Mendis offered any resistance worth the name with a steady 62.
With the big guns all back for the ODIs in preparation for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England and Wales in the summer, Sri Lanka’s task has become all the more difficult.
The presence of Nuwan Kulasekara lends massive experience to Sri Lanka’s bowling, which was taken apart in the last game by the South African top four.
AB de Villiers, back as the captain of the ODI side, enjoyed himself during a strokeful unbeaten 30 to build on half-centuries from Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, while Quinton de Kock’s fearlessness at the top of the 50-over tree is a massive roadblock that Kulasekara and Co. must find a way around.
South Africa is the favourite for this one. Sri Lanka has only shown sporadic flashes of brilliance all tour long; unless it can maintain intensity and consistency for the duration of the game, it will be difficult for it to keep a marauding South Africa at bay.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Farhaan Behardien, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (capt), Niroshan Dickwella, Sandun Weerakkody, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwal Kulasekara, Jeffrey Vandersay, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan, Chaturanga de Silva, Thikshila de Silva, Lahiru Madushanka, Sachith Pathirana, Isuru Udana, Seekkuge Prasanna.
Stats and trivia
Wendesday February 1, 2017 (d/n)
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)