South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Paarl, 2012 January 10, 2012

Malinga factor boosts Sri Lanka

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
South Africa and Sri Lanka have been evenly matched in ODIs over the years but home advantage will give the hosts a slight edge going into the series

At the end of a series in which they won a Test in South Africa for the first time but were dominated in the other two matches, Sri Lanka will be confident of a better display in the ODIs. They have a strong recent record in the format and have matched South Africa in head-to-head contests. South Africa will be looking to continue their proud home record in ODIs, which has seen them lose only two of their last 17 bilateral home series. In their two previous home series, South Africa managed a close 3-2 win against India but went down 1-2 to Australia. Sri Lanka, the runners-up in last year's World Cup, have had a patchy run in recent ODIs with defeats against England, Australia and Pakistan in their three previous series.

South Africa and Sri Lanka have played each other very few times in the last few years. Since 2005, they have met just seven times while India and Sri Lanka have played each other in 50 matches in the same period. The teams have dominated each other in their respective home Tests and the story is the same in ODIs too. South Africa have by far been the better side in home ODIs, in conditions favouring pace and bounce. They have won 12 and lost just five matches to Sri Lanka at home but surprisingly lost their previous encounter by 55 runs in Centurion during the Champions Trophy in 2009.

In Sri Lanka, on pitches that tend to keep low and favour the spinners, South Africa have managed just one win while losing nine games. Overall, both teams are locked on 22 wins each, with the average difference (0.92) and run-rate difference (0.07) marginally in favour of South Africa. South Africa's dominance at home and struggles away are reflected in the average and run-rate differences (9.40/0.56 in South Africa and -10.01/-0.50 in Sri Lanka). South Africa are slightly ahead on the head-to-head in neutral venues, winning nine out of 17 matches. Sri Lanka, despite having a poor record in South Africa, will be aware that they managed to upset the hosts in two of the biggest matches between the teams - in the World Cup game in 2003 and in the Champions Trophy in 2009.

South Africa's record against Sri Lanka in ODIs
  Played Wins Losses W/L ratio Bat avg/Bowl avg Avg diff Run rate/Economy rate RR diff
Overall 46 22 22 1.00 28.07/27.15 0.92 4.72/4.65 0.07
Home 18 12 5 2.40 35.61/26.21 9.40 5.12/4.56 0.56
Away 11 1 9 0.11 22.86/32.87 -10.01 4.34/4.84 -0.50
Neutral 17 9 8 1.12 25.54/25.14 0.40 4.55/4.62 -0.07
1990-1999 16 9 6 1.50 24.60/21.54 3.06 4.53/4.20 0.33
2000-2004 23 9 13 0.69 31.08/31.53 -0.45 4.85/4.82 0.03
Since 2005 7 4 3 1.33 27.14/27.59 -0.45 4.67/5.00 -0.33

South Africa have played far fewer ODIs since the start of 2009 than most top teams. However, they have a superb win-loss ratio of 1.88, which is behind only Australia's (2.03). Sri Lanka's win-loss ratio is fourth behind Australia's, South Africa's and India's but their run-rate difference of 0.37 is second only to India's 0.55. Australia and India lead the table with average differences of 8.78 and 8.42 followed by South Africa, who have a corresponding figure of 6.78. While Sri Lanka's wins have been equally distributed in matches batting first (21 wins) and chasing (20 wins), South Africa's wins are skewed towards matches when they have batted first. Of their 32 wins, 21 have come in games when they have batted first with just six defeats, while they have a 11-11 record in matches when they have fielded first.

Top teams in ODIs since 2009 (minimum win-loss ratio of 1.00)
Team Played Wins/Losses W-L ratio W/L (bat first) W/L (chases) Bat avg/Bowl avg Avg diff RR/ER RR diff
Australia 89 57/28 2.03 31/19 26/9 36.52/27.74 8.78 5.29/4.98 0.31
South Africa 49 32/17 1.88 21/6 11/11 37.94/31.68 6.26 5.62/5.38 0.24
India 92 55/30 1.83 22/16 33/14 37.89/29.47 8.42 5.62/5.07 0.55
Sri Lanka 77 41/32 1.28 20/18 21/14 32.46/28.95 3.51 5.20/4.83 0.37
Pakistan 70 37/32 1.15 18/14 19/18 28.34/32.44 -4.10 4.91/5.31 -0.40
England 69 34/32 1.06 15/16 19/16 31.11/27.12 3.99 5.28/5.13 0.15

A prime reason for South Africa's success in the ODI format has been the form of their top-order batsmen. AB de Villiers, who was the leading run-getter in the Test series, has been outstanding in the shorter form too. He averages 62.65 and has a strike-rate close to 100 in matches played since the start of 2009. de Villiers has a lower boundary-run percentage as a consequence of coming in later in the innings (40.58) but also a very low dot-ball percentage (39.23) mainly because of his ability to rotate the strike. Hashim Amla, who had an ordinary Test series by his standards, will relish playing in a format in which he has averaged over 55 in the last two years. The South African middle order is boosted further by the presence of their highest run-scorer Jacques Kallis and one-day specialist JP Duminy. Perhaps the only concern for South Africa will be the waning form of Graeme Smith, who has averaged just 32.86 in the same period.

South Africa's batsmen in ODIs since January 2009
Batsman Matches Runs Average SR 100/50 Boundary % Dot-Ball %
AB de Villiers 43 2193 62.65 99.23 8/12 40.58 39.23
Hashim Amla 42 2170 55.64 91.75 7/14 40.82 44.46
Jacques Kallis 34 1501 46.90 83.01 1/15 38.50 46.68
JP Duminy 44 1471 44.57 90.74 2/10 30.31 39.54
Graeme Smith 39 1249 32.86 80.68 1/7 46.11 54.65

The Sri Lanka batsmen, who had a testing time in the Test series, will look to get their act together in a format where they have been far more prolific. Kumar Sangakkara has been extremely consistent (average of 44.00 since January 2009) but has struggled to convert his half-centuries into centuries. Tillakaratne Dilshan, the top-scorer in the World Cup last year, is a definite threat at the top of the order despite coming into the series on the back of a horror run in the Tests. With nine centuries and ten fifties at a terrific strike-rate of 96.07 since 2009, he, together with Upul Tharanga, will be crucial to Sri Lanka's chances. Tharanga and Dilshan were involved in two double-century stands in the World Cup against Zimbabwe and England. Mahela Jayawardene, who scored a superb century in the World Cup final, has averaged in the mid-thirties but has regularly demonstrated an ability to control the innings. Almost all the Sri Lanka batsmen have higher boundary-run and dot-ball percentages than their South African counterparts, which suggests a contrasting approach to batting from both teams.

Sri Lanka's batsmen in ODIs since January 2009
Batsman Matches Runs Average SR 100/50 Boundary% Dot-ball %
Kumar Sangakkara 71 2772 44.00 78.28 1/24 40.62 52.72
Tillakaratne Dilshan 67 2741 44.20 96.07 9/10 55.89 51.84
Mahela Jayawardene 68 2210 36.83 82.09 5/14 39.36 49.25
Upul Tharanga 57 2056 41.12 76.60 6/11 50.09 58.34
Angelo Mathews 56 1140 34.54 80.39 0/8 36.14 49.92

During the Tests, Sri Lanka were plagued by the lack of a genuine matchwinning bowler. In the ODIs, however, they are boosted by the return of Lasith Malinga. Malinga, who has been remarkably accurate in the beginning and death overs, has been Sri Lanka's most successful bowler in the last two years. In the World Cup game against South Africa in 2007, Malinga singlehandedly brought Sri Lanka back into the contest with a stunning burst of four wickets in consecutive balls. Since 2009, he averages 24.71 with five hauls of four wickets or more and has an extremely low boundary-run percentage (42.03). Nuwan Kulasekara, despite being quite successful in the same period, has a far higher average (34.09) and boundary-run percentage (53.91) than Malinga.

Since his debut in 2005, Dale Steyn has played in just 57 ODIs and has been less of a force in the limited-overs format. Still, over the last two years, Steyn has a very good average (26.31) and a low boundary-run percentage (48.97) though his economy rate(4.61) is slightly on the higher side. Morne Morkel, who was not at his best in the Tests, will be a big threat for Sri Lanka given the conditions and his ODI form. Since 2009, Morkel averages 21.94 at an economy rate of 4.46 and also boasts a low boundary-run percentage (47.55).

Steyn/Morkel v Malinga/Kulasekara
Bowler Matches Wickets Average Economy rate 4WI/5WI Boundary % Dot-Ball %
Dale Steyn 37 61 26.31 4.61 2/1 48.97 59.48
Morne Morkel 31 55 21.94 4.46 4/0 47.55 58.95
Lasith Malinga 46 77 24.71 4.49>/td> 1/4 42.03 58.08
Nuwan Kulasekara 57 63 34.09 4.45 1/0 53.91 61.77