Kallis, Amla absence gives Sri Lanka an opening
January 17, Bloemfontein
Start time 1430 (1230 GMT)
The Big Picture
It is tough to find positives when you are 0-2 down in a five-match series, but Sri Lanka have cause for relief following their show in the second ODI. They stretched South Africa for a fleeting passage of play in the last game, suggesting they had woken up from the 43 all out nightmare. It was a game the visitors conceded with eight balls to spare, leaving in its wake a series of ifs and buts. If Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal had produced 15 more runs in the end overs, if Tillakaratne Dilshan had shown more perceptiveness with his bowling changes, if Lasith Malinga had somehow clung on to a tough return catch off the first ball that Albie Morkel faced, the result could have been different. But South Africa outlasted the best Sri Lanka had to offer, and are a game away from taking the series.
Bloemfontein will offer Sri Lanka their best chance of securing a win, if only because they won't have to contend with Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla. Colin Ingram and Alviro Petersen come in with impressive domestic form - and Test runs in the latter's case. Still South Africa will be vulnerable without Amla and Kallis, especially given how scratchy Graeme Smith, the other senior in the top order, has been in recent times.
Sri Lanka have injury worries of their own, with Dilhara Fernando doubtful for the second game running, and Ajantha Mendis on the flight back home. The three men who matter are still in town, though, and time is running out for all of them. Dilshan is yet to make a run in the series, Mahela Jayawardene is yet to make more than 31 on the tour, and Kumar Sangakkara's pitiable 3 off 28 balls in East London potentially cost Sri Lanka the extra 20 runs that may have won them the game. Will they turn the tide in Bloemfontein?
South Africa WWLWL (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLL
Watch out for...
Rangana Herath is not the first-choice limited-overs spinner in Sri Lanka, but the injury to Ajantha Mendis gives him the opportunity to assume that mantle. Herath bowled a wicketless but impressive spell in East London, beating Kallis' edge repeatedly both with spin and the lack of it. An afternoon start under sunny skies in Bloemfontein could offer him the assistance he needs to make a more telling contribution.
South Africa's renewed focus on rotation gives Colin Ingram a rare opportunity to break into a top order otherwise cast in stone. He's cracked consecutive hundreds for the Warriors franchise in the SuperSport series, and 521 runs at 57.88 in the Franchise 1-day Cup. He's already asked for the No. 3 spot, a position that's likely to be his for the next couple of games at the very least. Runs from him will give South Africa a welcome selection headache in the future.
Fernando could sit out once again with the knee injury that prevented him from playing in East London. Allrounder Kosala Kulasekara hasn't contributed in the first two games, and might make way for Thisara Perera. The pitch will be flat, hard and full of runs, and Sri Lanka were reportedly considering playing a second spinner. However, the uncapped Sachithra Senanayake, who was called up to replace Mendis, is yet to reach South Africa due to visa delays.
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/Kosala Kulasekara, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Dhammika Prasad
Ingram and Petersen are almost certain to play. The more interesting selection could be Vernon Philander, who, on Test form, deserves to walk into the XI. However, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel have bowled well enough to retain their spots in the XI. If Philander has to play, Dale Steyn may have to be benched, which won't be a bad idea given the workload he has endured in recent months. South Africa may wait till the series is won before doing that.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Dale Steyn/Vernon Philander, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11 Morne Morkel
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka have played five completed games in Bloemfontein, with a 2-3 win-loss record. All three defeats came against the hosts
- With six wickets in two games, Johan Botha has taken more wickets at this venue than any of the other bowlers who might play on Tuesday. The games were against Kenya and Zimbabwe, though.
"It's a very big game for us. We're not taking it lightly. Even with some of the new guys coming in, we have the foundations in place. We're starting over again, our feet are firmly on the ground."
AB de Villiers knows the series is yet to be won
"We know we can beat any team at any given opportunity. We just need to click, the batting and bowling. We are a very good team if we click at the right time."
Angelo Matthews points out what is ailing the Sri Lankan side
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo