Sri Lanka must win to save series
Sri Lanka is in a must-win situation here at Bloemfontein when they meet South Africa in the third One Day International on Tuesday. The day and night encounter will keep the five-match series alive or will be sealed in favour of South Africa depending on the outcome of the match.
Sri Lanka skipper T.M. Dilshan was a worried man at the Chevrolt Park on Monday, for the delay in the arrival of second spinner Sachitra Senanayake. Despite the wicket looking good for batting, there was enough room for two spinners in the team.
Off-spinner Senanayake the replacement for the injured Ajantha Mendis is still on his way to South Africa and team sources revealed that he will be available only from the fourth ODI.
Under these circumstances, Sri Lanka will have no other option but to field the same eleven that played in the second ODI at East London last Saturday.
Sri Lanka lost the first two ODIs in the five-match series and in case they are unable to make any changes at Bloemfontein the islanders is in danger of suffering their fourth straight series loss in ODI cricket after the World Cup finals eight months ago.
Sri Lanka lost ODI series to England, Australia and Pakistan before coming to South Africa.
"We need to keep the series alive and we need to pull up our socks," Sri Lanka vice-captain, Angelo Mathews said at Bloemfontein.
However, the bowling is not the biggest problem that Sri Lanka is facing in South Africa but it’s their batting. The top four batsmen T. M. Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Mathews have collectively scored only 56 runs in the first two games.
With two new balls at both ends being experimented according to latest ODI rules, Matthews thinks that a 250 plus score would be a good one to bowl at.
"Normally, the wicket here is very good for batting. So we'll have to assess the wicket first and then try and set up a target," said Mathews.
South Africa skipper A. B. de Villiers too said that there will be lots runs on the surface.
"It's going to be a high scoring game. I'm expecting a bit more runs here," De Villiers said.
The newly appointed skipper is on the verge of winning his debut series as captain but played down any early celebrations.
"They're world class players. We expect them to fire pretty soon," said De Villiers.
"I know there are three big players in their side. If they do come good, we’ll just try and minimize the damage," he said.
The South African skipper brands himself as inexperienced but attacking and likes to communicate more with the dressing room while the game is on.
"We'll assess the wicket tomorrow and play the first 10-15 overs and then come up with a total that we think is good. It's always good to communicate. Get the information from the field, send to the dressing room and discuss, what total to get or to chase down," De Villiers said.
Despite showing brilliant fielding skills at East London, the skipper still thinks his team is yet not up to the mark.
"According to me, we didn’t field that well in the last game. There were about 15 runs that we lost in fielding. We've got room for improvement in the next game," he said.
The main cricket ground in Bloemfontein was once called Goodyear Park and later it was named as Springbok Park. The present name is Chevrolt Park.
Sri Lanka has played six ODIs at this venue, winning two and losing three. The last time they played here in the 2003 World Cup, Sri Lanka beat New Zealand on their way to the semi-finals under Sanath Jayasuriya.
South Africa has rested top all-rounder Jacques Kallis and allowed Hashim Amla to be by the side of his wife as she is expecting their first child.
Alviro Petersen and Colin Ingram will replace the two senior batsmen while Vernon Philander, who's been impressive in Tests, has been recalled to the ODI squad. However, it won’t be a surprise if the hosts decide to rest either Dale Steyn or
Morne Morkel to pave the way for Philander. Philander finished the Sri Lanka Test series with 16 wickets in two matches and grabbed 14 in the series against Australia.
Sri Lanka squad:
T. M. Dilshan (captain), Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Kosala Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga and Dhammika Prasad
South Africa squad:
AB de Villiers (captain/wk), Johan Botha, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
(Daminda Wijesuriya reporting from Bloemfontein)