Sri Lanka's next generation need to stand up
Match factsSunday, August 04, 2013
Start time 1900 local (1330 GMT)
Big pictureHaving been happy with their ODI wins and confident with their top ranking in Twenty20s, Sri Lanka have suddenly been given a rude start on this tour. In Faf du Plessis' words, South Africa put pressure on the hosts for a change, and found their batting order brittle.
Sri Lanka had not played their top XI, focusing instead on player development, but despite handing repeated chances to the young batsmen in their ranks, the next-generation are yet to produce a match-winning knock in the series. So more often than not when Sri Lanka's seniors fail to fire, a collapse ensues. But on Friday, Sri Lanka lost their way despite a fluent fifty from Kumar Sangakkara.
Sri Lanka are already eyeing the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next year, and Dinesh Chandimal said his side would continue to test their T20 bench strength in this series. If the young batsmen are batted high up in the order again, they cannot afford another poor collective showing.
Kusal Perera is under particular pressure, having averaged just over five in his last seven international innings. Having arrived in the international side in a whirlwind of hype, his failures continue to be considered kindly, but it will not be long before there are calls to send him back to domestic cricket so someone else can be tried.
As South Africa head to Hambantota in higher spirits than they have been for much of their time in the country, they will still be wary of their batsmen's inadequacies against spin. Sachithra Senanayake's first spell was clever and disciplined, but the visiting top order cannot say they played him with any sort of confidence. Though JP Duminy and David Miller seem to have come to grips with Ajantha Mendis' variations, the remaining batsmen appear no more clued-up on how to play him than they were at the beginning of the tour.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed matches)
Sri Lanka: LWWWL
South Africa: WLWLW
Players to watch
Dinesh Chandimal has not crossed fifty in any form of the game since March - though because he bats so low, he has not had the opportunity to build a long innings in many of those matches. Plenty of eyebrows were raised when he was given the T20 captaincy in February, given it is not a format he naturally excels at. If he wants to lead the side in the next World Twenty20, he must improve his output significantly.
For the first time on the tour, South Africa's spinners were not leagues behind their counterparts in the Sri Lanka side, and a major reason for this was the bowling of Imran Tahir. In what was his T20 international debut, Tahir was given far more respect by the Sri Lanka batsmen than they had afforded Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso, and was a genuine wicket-taking threat to boot. He did bowl the odd poor delivery - often a full toss on off stump - but Sri Lanka's relative reticence meant he was not punished for it. Having now seen Tahir in action, their battle with him in Hambantota should make for good viewing.
Pitch and conditionsHambantota's surface has been among the most seam-friendly in the past, and South Africa's pace bowlers enjoyed the extra pace and bounce in the pitch when they played two matches there in last year's World Twenty20. The weather is likely to be fine on Sunday evening.
Teams newsWith Sri Lanka suggesting they will continue to rest one of their three senior batsmen, it may be Tillakaratne Dilshan's turn to take a breather for the match. Mahela Jayawardene is then likely to open alongside Kusal Perera. Jeevan Mendis did not bowl or make any runs in Colombo and he may be swapped out for Nuwan Kulasekara on what is likely to be a better strip for seam bowlers. Sri Lanka may also consider leaving the steady Lahiru Thirimanne out for the potentially explosive Angelo Perera.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Mahela Jayawardene, 2. Kusal Perera, 3. Dinesh Chandimal (c), 4. Kumar Sangakkara, 5. Angelo Mathews, 6. Lahiru Thirimanne/ Angelo Perera, 7. Thisara Perera, 8. Nuwan Kulasekara/ Jeevan Mendis, 9. Sachithra Senanayake, 10. Lasith Malinga, 11. Ajantha Mendis
It is difficult to see South Africa change their attack, after Friday's win, but the batting order may be in for at least one change. The likeliest of these is perhaps the exit of Quinton de Kock, who has not made a significant score in three innings. It will mean AB de Villiers has to don the gloves, but they may be able to strengthen their batting.
South Africa (probable): 1. Henry Davids, 2. AB de Villiers (wk), 3. Faf du Plessis, 4. JP Duminy, 5. David Miller, 6. David Wiese, 7. Chris Morris/ Farhaan Behardien/ Quinton de Kock, 8. Wayne Parnell, 9. Morne Morkel, 10. Imran Tahir, 11. Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Quotes"There's pressure for cricketers every time they play. Only the players who have learnt to handle that pressure in school cricket and domestic cricket have come to the national team. I don't think we need to teach players anything different about handling pressure. I trust that they will handle it better in the next two games."
Dinesh Chandimal hopes Sri Lanka will not fold like they did in Colombo, in the games to come.
"The Sri Lankan spinners have three or four different variations each, and you've got to make a decision pretty quick about what you're going to counter that with. They are pretty consistent with their lines and lengths and they vary their pace as well. We're going to have to look at that."
JP Duminy, the Man-of-the-Match from the first game, speaks about the spin challenge for South Africa's batsmen.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here