South Africa hope for respite in Pallekele
Match factsFriday, July 26, 2013
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
Big picturePallekele International Cricket Stadium was modeled on Supersport Park in Pretoria. The grass banks and open spaces are similar, the stands bear the same minimalistic, angular roof and even the floodlight towers seem like carbon copies. Unlike Supersport Park, the Pallekele ground is nestled in the hills and closeted by heavy vegetation, but having struggled with adapting to Sri Lankan conditions, the South Africa team will hope it is more like home than the Premadasa Stadium.
The surface has gained a reputation for being more conducive to fast bowling than most in the subcontinent, and the tall South Africa quicks should enjoy the bounce and carry that has often been a feature at the venue. They are on an 11-loss streak against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, but perhaps they will also be buoyed by the fact that Sri Lanka have lost half their completed matches at the ground, most recently to Bangladesh in March. Kandy's cooler temperatures, and mountain breeze will be a welcome change from Colombo's heavy heat as well.
Despite the attack having been dismantled in the first match, it is the batting that appears the area of deepest concern for South Africa, with no batsman having breached 30 in the two matches thus far. They have been somewhat short of opportunities to play long innings, given their chase was shortened to 21 overs in the second ODI, but they did not mount a serious challenge to Sri Lanka's totals in either match, and will almost certainly be bereft of Hashim Amla's services again, as they attempt to ignite the talent in their batting order.
Angelo Mathews returns for Sri Lanka, and the balance he brings, particularly with the ball, may prove crucial if the pitch assists the seamers. He will also be motivated by the prospect of overseeing his first ODI-series victory, even if some of the work has already been done for him. Sri Lanka will hope too, that the psychological position they have earned in this series will not be squandered at a less favoured venue, as they begin to eye a rare whitewash against a top side.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed matches)
Sri Lanka: WWLLW
South Africa: LLLTW
Players to watch
Upul Tharanga has 13 ODI hundreds and an oceanful of talent, but has in the past been a wildly inconsistent opener, often falling prey to balls angled across him, which he edges behind. Since being recalled last month, he has hit his highest-ever ODI score - a scintillating 174 not out. But in his remaining six innings, he has not crossed 50. At only 28, and with 169 ODIs behind him, Tharanga is capable of allaying qualms about the future of Sri Lanka's top order after the seniors retire, but he must find a route to consistency before he is dropped again.
In the 26 ODIs AB de Villiers has captained, his average is 70.11, and his strike rate 101.79. There are major doubts about his captaincy at home, but his own form appears to have benefited from the extra responsibility, and as South Africa search for a definitive innings to build a total around in this series, de Villiers is better placed than any other batsman to provide it.
Pitch and conditions
Angelo Mathews said he expected the pitch to take a little turn, but it has been under covers for much of this week, as rains have lashed the stadium, so it is likely there will be plenty for the seam bowlers as well. Pallekele has been one of the wettest grounds in the world, since its first match in 2010, and the forecast for Friday suggests it will not seek to alter that reputation, with rain expected during the afternoon.
Lahiru Thirimanne sustained a thumb injury in the second ODI, and is doubtful for this match. If he is unable to play, Jehan Mubarak will likely be given one more chance to prove he is of international quality. If the pitch looks like it will take turn, Mathews also hinted Sri Lanka might play Ajantha Mendis, whose situation is not far removed from Mubarak's.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Upul Tharanga, 2. Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3. Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4. Mahela Jayawardene, 5. Dinesh Chandimal, 6. Angelo Mathews, 7. Jehan Mubarak/Lahiru Thirimanne, 8. Thisara Perera, 9. Rangana Herath, 10. Shaminda Eranga/ Ajantha Mendis, 11. Lasith Malinga
Colin Ingram and Quinton de Kock are the candidates to replace Amla atop the order, but de Kock may have a slight edge over Ingram, who has ducks in his last two ODI innings. De Kock also spent close to an hour practicing his wicketkeeping on the eve of the match, which suggests he might take the gloves as well.
South Africa (probable): 1. Alviro Petersen, 2. Quinton de Kock (wk)/Colin Ingram, 3. JP Duminy, 4. AB de Villiers (c), 5. Faf du Plessis, 6. David Miller, 7. Robin Peterson, 8. Ryan McLaren, 9. Aaron Phangiso, 10. Chris Morris, 11. Morne Morkel
Stats and trivia
- The last three ODIs played in Pallekele were decided by the Duckworth-Lewis method and the previous match was abandoned altogether, due to poor weather
- Kumar Sangakkara averages 71.40 in 2013, and is the second-highest runscorer so far in the year, behind Misbah-ul-Haq
Quotes"Lasith Malinga hasn't done a lot of damage, but we wouldn't want to lose a wicket every first over of every game. It's not the first time it's happened. You've just got to keep it simple and stick to the basics against him I guess."
AB de Villiers on losing a wicket in the first over of an innings in consecutive games
"I was surprised they didn't come. They are two of their main players. The team they have got is a very good unit. But Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn are unique players."
Angelo Mathews on two of South Africa's proven performers who are not available for the tour
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.