Sri Lanka can only get better
January 14, East London
Start time 10:00 (8:00 GMT)
The Big Picture
Sri Lanka, like their fellow World Cup finalists, find themselves tumbling down a seemingly endless abyss. And like with India, the big question is whether Sri Lanka are doing anything to arrest their descent. The Durban Test suggested a revival, but in reality that win was down to a magnificent exhibition of in-the-trenches grit from Thilan Samaraweera, and an equally large-hearted effort from Rangana Herath. Sri Lanka responded by leaving Samaraweera out of the ODI squad, and Herath out of the starting XI for Paarl. Their presence may not have altered the result in that game, but nonetheless they were missed.
There's only one way Sri Lanka can go from 43 all out, but a revival will require application from the big three at the top. Tillakaratne Dilshan has been the biggest culprit, attempting million-dollar strokes too early, and falling for single-digit scores five times in seven innings so far on the tour. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, between them, have managed just one century in 14 efforts. Even that would not have transpired had Mark Boucher not dropped a regulation catch from Sangakkara early in his second-innings effort in Durban. Sri Lanka's attack will be desperate for their batsmen to turn the corner in East London, where the conditions are expected to be similar to Paarl's.
Everything South Africa tried worked in the first one-dayer. The batting clicked in unison to leave the Sri Lankan attack with figures much worse than they deserved. AB de Villiers attempted radical 7-2 fields, only for his bowlers to back him up and the Sri Lanka batsmen to play into his hands. At some point in his tenure, de Villiers will be confronted by tougher circumstances, and given the capricious nature of the one-day format, it could happen in the very next game.
Form guide(Most recent first)
South Africa WLWLL
Sri Lanka LLLLW
Watch out for...
Albie Morkel's short stints with bat and ball in Paarl did not do much damage in the context of the game, but were good indicators of the form he is in. Coming in at No. 5, he slugged two monstrous sixes in the end overs, and bowled two overs of menacing seam for no reward later in the evening. If the top order performs well again, South Africa could consider promoting him even higher in the batting line-up.
Nuwan Kulasekara was unlucky not to pick up more wickets in Paarl, after producing a bunch of prodigious inswingers with the new ball. Like several of his team-mates, he will be hoping for a change of fortune in East London.
Dilhara Fernando had a knee concern on the eve of the match. Ajantha Mendis, who had a recurrence of a back niggle, has been ruled out of the series. Sachithra Senanayake has been named Mendis' replacement, and could be available for the third ODI. Thisara Perera or Dhammika Prasad could come in for Fernando.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Mahela Jayawardene, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera / Dilhara Fernando, 8 Kosala Kulasekara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath
Rory Kleinveldt, who was benched in Paarl, has been ruled out of the series with an injured quadricep muscle. South Africa are yet to name a replacement. Hashim Amla is waiting on the birth of his first child, and might pull out of the game at the last moment. In case he does, Johan Botha will have to step in, forcing South Africa to rejig their batting order.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11 Morne Morkel
Stats and trivia
- South Africa have lost only four times at Buffalo Park, and the last of those defeats came in 1999
- Sri Lanka have a 2-1 win-loss record here. The victories came against New Zealand and Zimbabwe, and the defeat against South Africa
Quotes"It bothers me when I am not the one run out. If somebody else gets run out it bothers me more than anything."
Hashim Amla is concerned after being involved in four run-outs this season.
"We were very disappointed with our performance in the first one-dayer and we apologise to our cricketing family in Sri Lanka."
Sri Lankan coach Geoff Marsh doesn't offer excuses for the team's woefulness.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo