SL v SA, World T20 2012, Group C, Hambantota September 21, 2012

SA not intimidated by spin factor


If cricket was science fiction, contests between Sri Lanka and South Africa might be characterised as tussles between Ewoks and Vulcans.

One side is almost cute. Their emphasis on the "Sri Lankan brand of cricket" is fuzzy, and their insistence on allowing bowlers to be themselves no matter how strange, is charmingly different. South Africa meanwhile are efficiency personified. There is little room for sentiment in their outfit and it is all the more formidable because of it. They have developed some of the best players in the world, and know the science of getting everything out of them.

This difference in philosophies is made all the more stark by the teams' varying strengths. Sri Lanka's attack is dripping with x-factor, but there is also brittleness about it. South Africa's bowlers however, are precise and consistent. Sri Lanka revel in spin, whether producing it or playing it, but South Africa are masters of pace, seam and bounce; a brutal art for a dauntless team.

Saturday's encounter between two of the tournament favourites might be a case of who can exploit the other's weakness better. Ajantha Mendis and Jeevan Mendis shared nine Zimbabwe wickets between them, in Sri Lanka's 84-run drubbing of Zimbabwe, then South Africa's pace quartet reaped eight scalps from the same team two nights later. Mahela Jayawardene alluded to South Africa's perceived weakness against spin when he cited their "inexperienced middle order" ahead of the match, and Sri Lanka's troubles against quality pace bowling are well known - even if they have improved in that regard lately.

South Africa are aware they will have to play Ajantha Mendis on the same surface he took a world record 6 for 8 only four days ago, but captain AB de Villiers said his side know plenty about him and are far from intimidated.

"A guy like Mendis is a world class bowler and when he's going well he will always pick up wickets," he said. "But we've seen him perform under pressure and seen him break down under pressure as well. So hopefully, we can get the upper hand against him and not let him bowl to us."

The pitch will play a significant role. The surface on which South Africa demolished Zimbabwe was perhaps the liveliest of the tournament so far, but the strip that will be used on Saturday also had plenty in it for the seamers.

"I was expecting the pitch to bounce a bit, but not as much as it did against Zimbabwe. I was surprised that pitch didn't really take turn. I'm certainly expecting it to turn a bit more when we play Sri Lanka."

Both teams are through to Super Eights, which means the result of this game only becomes relevant in the event of a tie at the end of the next phase. Each captain conceded they will be tempted to test out their bench strength for the effective dead rubber, but de Villiers stressed that it was more than just a warm up for the matches to come.

"I don't think there will be any drop in intensity for the Sri Lanka game," de Villiers said. "We're in the beginning stages of a very, very big event, a tournament that we really want to win. You have to play well in every game and improve in every game. Sri Lanka are the home team and we're probably underdogs. We'll try and gain some momentum out of the game."

Sri Lanka may also like to give Akila Dananjaya a chance to prove his talent at international level. If he plays alongside Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka's attack will be a showcase of the weird. The Ewoks will hope to hoodwink their opponents into crashing their hovercraft into trees, but if the Vulcans have their way, the script will be clean and predictable but no less impressive.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vikram on September 22, 2012, 11:57 GMT


  • Muhammad on September 22, 2012, 11:49 GMT

    this time, SA can proof the world they can play spinners in these pitches. They have good players but only thing how they take the pressure situation? Srilankans are good in fielding and batting, they will have advantage of home crowd and they have few batsmen who can change the whole situations in seconds...If SA bowling clicks for sure they can beat SL.. My vote is for SA this time!!

  • Lalith on September 22, 2012, 11:03 GMT


    Pak cannot beat Black Caps or Bangladesh. What r u talking about.

  • gurinder on September 22, 2012, 9:26 GMT

    only pak can stop india from winning this cup , i can see pak india rematch for final from a mile

  • Nival on September 22, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    wen u say clean and predictable..u mean predictably SA is a better team?..even if SL win?..i have nothing annoying in cricket than all this hype..SA only won at home against SL..not in SL.if SA being better at home accounts for their greatness against SL.if SL are great against them in SL, arent SL equally great?>>are seamers and seaming pitches superior than spinners and spinning tracks?..of course seam bowling may be attractive and seaming pitches equally so..but is spinning is a lesser art and spinning tracks are lesser?..that is soo unfair andrew..i say this coz u sound lyk that.i'd say SA have proved nothing against SL until they come here and win a series.then they will be truly the no 1, just like the great Aussie team who could beat SL 3-0 at home.Predictable and clean? mean if SL wins, its unpredictable and weird?.i thought we are over the apartheid and colony eras!

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    Oh please! Sri Lanka can rest all their spinners for this match! Let TM Dilshan bowl his gentle offspins at South Africa! That is more than enough!

  • ian on September 22, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    damn1234, is that so, do you remember a certain odi at paarl, lankans 43/10, we got ya bud

  • Afraz on September 22, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    whatever said or done, this would be a practice match-like for the both sides as they both have gone achieved big wins against ZIM, so probably they are into the 8's, SL will try this match with some part timers and probably the SA will do same. But anyhow the truth is And Asian country for sure gonna grab the trophy.

  • Kunal on September 22, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    @Ramansilva: So the most hyped team is top ranked in test cricket and consistently in top 3 in other forms. Nice hype I must say

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    The only team that can keep SA from winning any cup is SA...They will be safe as long as they do not pree the "SELF DESTRUCT"..

  • No featured comments at the moment.