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The Preview by Andrew Fidel Fernando
August 5, 2013
Match factsTuesday, August 06, 2013
Big PictureSri Lanka's players might have often heard that the sport they play is a great leveller, but they might not have thought the highs and lows could come in such quick succession. Four nights after Sri Lanka had embarrassed South Africa 4-1, they are pondering their own humiliation. The world's top-ranked Twenty20 side is one game away from being whitewashed at home. If they fail on Tuesday, they will lose that ranking and slip to third, behind Pakistan and South Africa, who will rise from fifth.
The scripts for both games so far were remarkably similar, and make Sri Lanka's problem clear. South Africa batted first, stumbled early, then surged late. Sri Lanka also lost early wickets, but were kept in the hunt by Kumar Sangakkara. In the end he could not compensate for his team-mates' impotence and South Africa won handily. Sri Lanka's young batsmen have been under pressure throughout the tour, and have largely misfired. If they cannot muster a performance worthy of the faith afforded in them by the selectors, the team will have cause to embark on some soul searching.
Their opponents, meanwhile, have finally come to terms with the pace of the pitches in Sri Lanka and seem to also have managed to get a grip on Ajantha Mendis' variations. South Africa have been rejuvenated in the field under Faf du Plessis, who has had a knack for using his bowlers cleverly, and Imran Tahir's insertion has also given the attack a dimension that it lacked in the ODIs.
Though the word "revenge" has grown unfashionable in sport, South Africa will be out to make their tour's outlook a little more even, with a third commanding performance. The toss will be important again, but for the first time since arriving in Sri Lanka, they might even be favourites to win the match.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed matches)
Players to watchThisara Perera was effective with both bat and ball in the ODI series, but has only bowled one over in the Twenty20 series, and has not been at his explosive best with the bat. There is talk that he is the most underutilised player in the Sri Lanka team, batting as low as he does, but if he is to move further up, he will have to play match-winning cameos with more consistency than he manages now.
David Miller has been among South Africa's more comfortable batsmen in Sri Lanka's conditions throughout the tour, and has not been too shy to attack the same spinners who wreaked havoc on the men around him. His 36 off 21 in the last match lifted South Africa to their first challenging total of the tour, and he may be key to their hopes again, if the misfiring top order falls cheaply.
Pitch and conditionsThe Hambantota Stadium's evening gusts had a major effect on Sunday, with batsmen picking certain areas of the ground to hit to, and swing bowlers benefiting from some extra assistance. The wind has been a feature of the ground since its debut, as has the pitch that has proven difficult for batsmen. The weather is expected to be fine for the match.
Team newsIt is difficult to predict whether Sri Lanka will stick with their plan to play only three senior batsmen. The prospect of being whitewashed might spur them to play their best XI, but Kusal Perera also showed signs of reclaiming some form in his 21 in the last match, when he was given wrongly given out. There is also a chance Lahiru Thirimanne is the man to make way.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2. Mahela Jayawardene/Kusal Perera, 3. Dinesh Chandimal (c), 4. Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5. Angelo Mathews, 6. Lahiru Thirimanne, 7. Thisara Perera, 8. Nuwan Kulasekara, 9. Sachithra Senanayake, 10. Lasith Malinga, 11. Ajantha Mendis
South Africa will not want to meddle with their attack, and though Henry Davids and Quinton de Kock have not scored runs at the top of the order, they are likely to remain in the side as well.
South Africa (probable): 1. Quinton de Kock (wk), 2. Henry Davids, 3. Faf du Plessis (c), 4. JP Duminy, 5. AB de Villiers, 6. David Miller, 7. David Wiese, 8. Wayne Parnell, 9. Morne Morkel, 10. Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11. Imran Tahir
Stats and trivia
Quotes"The plan against their spinners was to be confident and try and unsettle them. Even though they might get wickets, we still tried to unsettle them. I think it's working. We played Mendis really well in the last two games."
"That they didn't do well against the spinners in the ODI and Ajantha is a very good bowler in T20 cricket. That's why he bowled his full quota."
Dinesh Chandimal on why Ajantha Mendis bowled out in the second match, despite going for 39 and taking no wickets, yet Thisara Perera was unused.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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