Chance for youngsters to shine
Match factsWednesday, July 31, 2013
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
Big pictureWednesday's encounter could shape to be another meaningless dead rubber in a series already short on context, but Sri Lanka's selectors have stepped in to ratchet up interest, if only among the host nation's fans. Sri Lanka have named two uncapped players and a young opener to the 15-man squad and chosen to rest three top players. The match will now serve as a trial for the generation coming through, while the youngsters already embedded in the side now have an opportunity to move closer to their preferred batting positions.
Some experience has been retained in the top order, via Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who are the series top-scorers and its only centurions. But with both Rangana Herath and Lasith Malinga rested and Nuwan Kulasekara still unavailable due to injury, Sri Lanka's attack now appears light on experience. The match may also be a trial for Angelo Mathews' captaincy, who does not have a reliable bowler to call upon if the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers or JP Duminy begin to mount imposing scores.
Some of South Africa's second string have already been on trial for much of the series, but a 4-1 result will be a major disappointment, particularly if they are overcome by a green Sri Lanka outfit. Though their batting has caused them most woe in Sri Lanka so far, the bowling has not been consistent either, and the catching and fielding has been as poor as anything a South Africa side has produced in recent years. The idea of playing for pride is a cliché in encounters such as these, but despite the challenge of playing without key players in this tour, this group of players must now be desperate to prove they are better than they have shown so far in Sri Lanka.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed matches)
Sri Lanka WLWWL
South Africa LWLLL
Players to watchDespite not having played the first two matches, Ajantha Mendis is now the top wicket-taker in the series, with seven scalps at 12.28. As ever, he is most efficient against batsmen who have not played him before, but in the fourth ODI, he also proved capable of exerting control in difficult situations - keeping a flowing Hashim Amla in check during the Powerplays, and then returning at the death to wipe South Africa's innings out. South Africa's batsmen must now be growing wise to his variations, and Mendis' challenge is to continue to remain a threat.
Faf du Plessis has now collected four failures from four innings, and has epitomised the problems in South Africa's batting in the series, as he has failed to provide an innings of substance when the game was in the balance. He has perhaps been unlucky as well - run-out by a poor call from AB de Villiers in one match, and undone by a smart stumping in another, but he needs some runs in Sri Lanka before he takes the reins for the Twenty20 series.
Pitch and conditionsThe series has spat up four slow tracks so far, and the surface at the Premadasa for Wednesday is unlikely to be vastly different. After a week of rain, the weather has also settled somewhat in Colombo, though the forecast also mentions a chance of thunderstorms in the early afternoon.
Team newsAside from Malinga and Herath, Mahela Jayawardene has also been rested from the side. With Upul Tharanga dropped, Kusal Perera is likely to get another chance to open for Sri Lanka, while Angelo Perera may play his second match in the lower middle order. Shaminda Eranga and Sachithra Senanayake may also get to move off the bench and into the XI.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Kusal Perera, 2. Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3. Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4. Lahiru Thirimanne, 5. Dinesh Chandimal, 6. Angelo Mathews (c), 7. Angelo Perera, 8. Thisara Perera, 9. Sachithra Senanayake, 10. Shaminda Eranga, 11. Ajantha Mendis
Ryan McLaren's right hamstring will be assessed at training before South Africa make a final call on him. De Villiers admitted on the eve of the match that South Africa had erred by playing two specialist spinners early in the series, and unless there is a raging turner prepared for this match, they are likely to retain their four-pronged pace attack. Whether Quinton de Kock will stay in the side as wicketkeeper, or if Alviro Petersen will return, is uncertain.
South Africa (probable): 1. Hashim Amla, 2. Quinton de Kock/Alviro Petersen, 3. JP Duminy, 4. AB de Villiers, 5. Faf du Plessis, 6. David Miller, 7. Farhaan Behardien, 8. Robin Peterson, 9. Ryan McLaren/Rory Kleinveldt, 10. Morne Morkel, 11. Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Stats and trivia
- After Sunday's hundred, Dilshan now has the second-highest ODI centuries among Sri Lankans, after Sanath Jayasuriya. Dilshan has 17 and Jayasuriya 28.
- South Africa have not lost an away bilateral ODI series since February 2010
Quotes"In a series like this, when it's a dead rubber, the youngsters will be free to play their game rather than putting any pressure on themselves."
Angelo Mathews on why it's a good opportunity to groom young players.
"We're still playing against XI good players. Whichever team they are playing tomorrow, we're going to take it as a very serious ODI game and try and beat them."
AB de Villiers states why his team is not treating it as dead rubber
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here