Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st ODI, Colombo July 5, 2014

No stroll for favourites Sri Lanka


Match facts

Sunday, July 6, 2014
Start time 0945 local (0415 GMT)

Big Picture

When South Africa were in Sri Lanka for ODIs last year, the visitors barely took breaths between comments about the heat. That is a little like going to Moscow and complaining people mostly spoke Russian. Maybe the men at SLC took note and chose to provide their team optimal advantage. Perhaps they are just sadists (which some Sri Lanka fans would not find surprising). Whatever the reason, the two ODIs played in the hottest climes, in Colombo and Hambantota, are both day matches. July is not the warmest or most humid month in the Sri Lankan calendar. But it's no Highveld either.

Then there are the pitches. If SLC were indeed taking notes from 2013's South Africa sojourn, or just following the sport in general (which some Sri Lanka fans would find surprising), they will know of the tourists' aversion to spin. The Premadasa Stadium surface can assist seam at times, but it also has a dustbowl mode. Angelo Mathews might be slightly miffed if he arrives there on Sunday morning to find the pitch would not suit a second frontline slow bowler.

But South Africa are too good a team to stumble into the same pits that swallowed them during the 4-1 drubbing last year. They have arrived with good time, and clinically trounced a Board XI side featuring five players from last year's Sri Lanka squad. They will also have studied Ajantha Mendis with renewed vigour and run microscopes over Sachithra Senanayake as well. Most men in their squad have toured the island before, and if Jacques Kallis is fit, South Africa will also be at full strength, which they were not in 2013. Sri Lanka still begin as favourites, but they will not expect to stroll past the visitors so easily this time.

The hosts, though, are not just humming, they are surging. A sweep of the trophies in England has the team in predictably high spirits. Angelo Mathews said on that tour that his side is "like a family", and when Mahela Jayawardene leaps on Kumar Sangakkara's back or when Mathews and Rangana Herath place their arms tenderly around each other's waists while mulling field placements, it is not difficult to imagine they are close. This year they have defeated sides that outgunned them on paper, by dint of preparation and fighting spirit. Now they are at home, complacency appears the chief obstacle.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka: WWLWL
South Africa: WWWLL

In the spotlight

The vice-captaincy seems a poisoned chalice for young Sri Lanka players. Dinesh Chandimal went through a staggeringly lean patch when burdened with it in ODIs, and now Lahiru Thirimanne may be struggling under its weight. It is an odd change of fortunes for Thirimanne, who had been instrumental to Sri Lanka's Asia Cup triumph in March, and had contributed to the World T20 campaign as well. He will hope a team without nemesis James Anderson will be an easier challenge, but in Dale Steyn, South Africa have a bowler who can do almost everything Anderson does, only faster. Thirimanne will hope to recover self-belief before the teams move to the Tests.

Imran Tahir is on his first top-level tour of Sri Lanka, and already the onus is on him to provide the bowling spark South Africa so desperately lacked in the 2013 series. Tahir has whirled his way to an average of 14.81 in nine matches elsewhere on the continent, but Sri Lanka pitches often reward different lengths and speeds than are generally useful in nearby nation. As a wrist spinner Tahir may pose a different slow-bowling challenge from those Sri Lanka see off with little fuss from most touring teams.

Team news

Kusal Perera was out of the domestic T20 tournament with a knee injury, but news from the Sri Lanka camp suggests he will be available for the first ODI. Sri Lanka have three spinners in the squad, and if the Premadasa pitch looks like it will take turn, Rangana Herath is most likely to miss out, thanks chiefly to his importance to Sri Lanka in the Tests, and his temperamental knee injury.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Lasith Malinga

An upper back injury has put Jacques Kallis in doubt, with the allrounder having already missed the warm-up match. Elsewhere, South Africa appear in good health.

South Africa (probable): 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Jacques Kallis/ Ryan McLaren, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 David Miller, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

There is a chance of rain in the morning, which may help freshen up the surface and also lower the temperature during the day, if the cloud hangs around.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa last played an ODI in December last year - against India, at home
  • South Africa have never won an ODI series in Sri Lanka. They have completed 15 ODIs in the country and lost all but two
  • Kumar Sangakkara is the leading ODI scorer for 2014 with 559 runs at 46.58. He has gone past the four-figure threshold thrice in the past three years


    "You can't be complacent because they play their best cricket wherever they play, and they have got all their guns back. So we expect a really good challenge from the South Africans."
    Angelo Mathews

    "If you can win a series in Sri Lanka, mentally that puts you in a good position going into a tournament like the World Cup. There's every chance you could end playing Sri Lanka in a competition like the World Cup, in a big quarter-final."
    South Africa coach Russell Domingo is looking to prepare for the World Cup, even in Sri Lanka

    Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ted on July 6, 2014, 6:05 GMT

    @Dark Man X : Keep Kusal forever & let the others carry the burden! We obviously saw more than enough of that IMPACT he made to the team by contributing just 409 runs from 23 ODIs without Bangladesh with a tailender's Average of 19.4... failing to last THREE OVERS>>> :)) As you say, this will certainly set the tone for the rest of the players :)) According to you, steadying the inning is number 3's job... then why do we need SPECIALIST OPENERS? Even any tailender slogger could do the same thing! It seems you have no idea about cricket! There is a thing called New ball SEAM to deal with, in the initial session of a match. That is why OPENER's position required a SPECIALIST batsmen, who can stay longer and deal with it, at least for the first 15 overs! WITH 2 NEW BALLS, this is more important than ever as seen recently jn Eng! In places like Aus-NZ-Eng there is no escape! BY THE WAY THARANGA HAD MANAGED A STRIKE RATE OF 73.66 OVER 5000+ RUNS...SO DON`T TRY TO BLUFF WITH STATS pal.!

  • ESPN on July 6, 2014, 4:05 GMT

    Stats wise SLs best operner is Tharanga. But he is not player who can make an impact like Kusal. on his day KJ will hit a quick 30 and set the tone for the rest of the players. UT will slowly build his innigs (after the other team giving him 5,6 lives) to score a slow 50/60 with a strike rate of 60. I would go for an aggressive operner any day! u hit out or get out. holding role is number 3s job. Thats where Lahiru will fit the bill only if he can cope with fast, swinging deliveries. Because when you have an aggressive operner, more often than not, the number 3 will be coming out to bat in the 1st 5 overs in lively pitches! pitty not to see the guy who sacrificed his title and dropped himself to help the team, getting dropped even after Scoring a 50 in d practice game. Way to go SLC.

  • ESPN on July 6, 2014, 3:36 GMT

    Go lions....... No matter who we face, just play the normal game.... We are sure to come out with the cup...

  • Dummy4 on July 6, 2014, 3:25 GMT

    SA Vs SL. Spinners may make the difference. One Tahir Vs many; that's the equation. Great pace-men of SA lose some of their bite in these pitches; in fact on most of the sub-continental surfaces. So pace-men and batsmen are evenly matched. Advantage S.L.

  • Android on July 6, 2014, 1:40 GMT

    @LAKingsfan- You're right, This SA team is in full strength and form unlike England.. SL will find it very difficult to win against this SA side..

  • Nimmie on July 6, 2014, 1:01 GMT

    Chandimal and other consistent promising youngsters being dropped, the 3 seniors to continue here can be considered as a disgrace to the Game of Cricket in the Country. The Cricket future of us is more important, than the future of sticky-footed 37 y olds. Khausal Silva should be brought to open batting in 50 overs as well, whose career was ruined as a youngster, because these solid controlled hitters can do blind-hitting better than fleet-footed batters that tends to start missing, edging & lofting from the very 1st ball as it has always been the case, since '96. Those days we were afford to loose the openers within the 1st 5 overs but today there is only one such solid batter in the middle in M'tews to take us to safety. If you try to defend with only one batter for an entire T'ment, a winning of that T'ment would be only a dream for us. Most fans believe the local selectors of late, lacks required knowledge to pick young players and the importance of playing them.

  • Nimmie on July 6, 2014, 0:59 GMT

    What would be the position of Great Tendulkar, if he was born in SL,with this kind of poor selectors? Since he was a pure batter, he would be able to start his career only as a middle order batter at the age around 25 and end up with a unsuccessful careers as in the case with S'weera & Atapatu (forcing a promising player to wait too long, would tend him to loose self confidence ). If we want to be successful at the next WC, Khausal Silva should open batting with one of these youngsters like Kusal Janith, Nioshan Dickwella (The most consistent schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2012, a success in the Youth WC 2012, a leading run-getter in the last Domestic LO T'ment), KusalMendis, Sadeera Samarawickrema (The most consistent schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2013/14, successes in the Youth WC 2014),..followed by Chandimal,Mathews, Roshen Silva ( brilliant in the last LO T'ment of B'desh),AngeloPerera( most consistent solid batters with outstanding consistency, in Domestic Cricket)

  • Dummy4 on July 5, 2014, 23:23 GMT

    Making international standard player is not that easy. Tiri and Chandi shows they capable in this level many times also failed sometimes due to their lack of experiences. Mathew had similar situation but he bounced back. These two will bounce back sure. Thri settle down player but, out of form now. Chandi need to think about his shot selections. Good luck both teams. This SA team looks strong and they have proven match winners. SL have the same ability.

  • Khehla on July 5, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    I wish the Proteas luck on what should be a tough tour in alien conditions. That said, I'm not gonna lose sleep if SA lose the ODI series, it's not @ all important IMO. The Tests is where SA will have to really rally up and put a performance that's fitting of the stature.

  • ESPN on July 5, 2014, 21:23 GMT

    Is this match on UK TV?

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