Sri Lanka will be monitoring Ajantha Mendis closely before they take on South Africa in the last league match of Group C, at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium, on Saturday. The team management will name the final XI on Saturday morning after evaluating the fitness level of Mendis. Mendis left the field due to a side strain, after his match winning performances against Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka has four different kinds of specialist bowlers in their spin department, in addition to T. M. Dilshan who can come out with few surprises at any given time. In case Sri Lanka team management decides not to take a risk with Ajantha Mendis, 18 year old Akila Dhananjaya is set to make his international debut on Saturday.
Dhananjaya, who bowls four different kinds of deliveries, was trying out his repertoire at the center of MRICS, while others were practicing at the nets.
T. M. Dilshan was hit on the chest by a delivery from Shaminda Eranga but the star opener had guts to come out for yet another batting session.
The two strips at MRICS, prepared for Saturday's game, are neatly shaved. The same surface that looked greenish less than 24 hours ago, was totally brownish by Friday afternoon. Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene seemed happy about it.
"I just had a look at the wicket and it looks good," Jayawardene said.
"We’re playing on the same wicket that we played the other day (against Zimbabwe). I think they’ve prepared wickets expecting to play a lot of matches on them. So in the initial matches it will be a lot firmer," Jayawardene added.
Only a couple of strips will be used for all the matches at MRICS and there will be a bit of wear and tear as the tournament unfolds.
"That is part and parcel of the game," Jayawardene said.
The weather had become unpredictable all of a sudden and there were showers at Sooriyawewa before the Lankan team began their practice session. The villagers say the showers have come after a long lay-off. Since the match starts at 3.30 pm, the wind is not going to be a big factor too.
As Jayawardene said, this is a big tournament and that it-self is a big motivation for the players to make sure to keep their intensity levels high.
"We don’t want to turn up and play just because we’ve qualified," Jayawardene said.
"We want to keep the momentum going, that’s important, getting into bad habits can be a problem. So you don’t want those bad habits to creep into your game," Jayawardene explained at the pre-match press conference on Friday.
Despite the contest being a dead rubber the Lankan skipper doesn't look at it that way.
"We need to win and get momentum going. As for the combination we’ll decide after looking at the final wicket tomorrow.
“The options are pretty open so we’ll see what the best combination is that we can put up against South Africa," said Jayawardene.
Dilshan Munaweera will be given the license to go out and play his natural game. Sri Lanka has a long list of batsmen to add confidence to the youngster who will be asked to go after the bowling, in his second international game.
"The good thing is that he’s got a free hand. When you have a youngster coming into the set-up, there’s not much pressure on you," Jayawardene said.
"You just go out there and enjoy yourself. Back yourself to play your game. We will give him a free hand to play as he can," he said.
Sri Lanka Squad
Mahela Jayawardene (Captain), T. M. Dilshan, Dilshan Munaweera, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis and Jeevan Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Shaminda Eranga and Akila Dhananjaya,
South Africa Squad
AB de Villiers (Captain & wk), Hasim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Johan Botha, Jean-Paul Duminy, Jacques Kallis, Richard Levi, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Faf Du Plessis, Justin Ontong, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn
- Daminda Wijesuriya reporting from Sooriyawewa