Series at stake for jolted hosts
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
Though the fading Colombo light helped hasten Sri Lanka's demise in the first ODI, dropped catches and panicked batting marked their road to defeat. As the teams move to the outstations, the hosts must put their game in order or risk being left in the dark in a series they are expected to win.
Of most concern is Sri Lanka's middle order. Lahiru Thirimanne is still in the grip of the vice-captains' curse, having not seemed himself since the promotion. Ashan Priyanjan is prone to the indiscretions of inexperience - like his advancing slog against the turn to Imran Tahir.
Even Mahela Jayawardene is experiencing a lull in ODIs. He has hit two fifties in his last 20 innings - though it is revealing that one came in the Asia Cup final, and the other in the deciding ODI against England. Maybe two must-win games at home will coax him back to near his best.
South Africa have reason to feel more comfortable in Kandy than they did in Colombo. The Pallekele surface often has more bounce and pace than most in the subcontinent. This match will be played in the evening (with any luck, SLC has organised for the floodlights to be switched on this time) and the temperature is two or three degrees lower than at the coast in any case. This venue was also the scene of their only win during their last visit to the country, in 2013.
More importantly, key men have begun with intent, seemingly desperate not to repeat the mistakes of their last tour to the island. Hashim Amla's Premadasa ton was a delight, as he mixed two good measures of fleet-footed positivity with a pint of watchful defence against the spinners. AB de Villiers was efficient and belligerent. Imran Tahir's flailing wicket celebrations are in ripping form, just like his legspin. And the seam attack hunted effectively together.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWWLW
In the spotlight
Some Sri Lanka players have venues that seem to complete them. Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath shed tears of joy every time they behold the Galle Stadium. Mahela Jayawardene shares such a close bond with the SSC pitch, Kumar Sangakkara gets jealous. Pallekele has so far been Tillakaratne Dilshan's field of dreams. He has five hundreds in 10 innings there, amassing 682 runs at 97.42, with a strike rate above 92. He hinted at some good form in Colombo, and going by his recent run, a big score is never distant for Dilshan.
Like Sri Lanka's three seniors, Jacques Kallis has taken aim at the 2015 World Cup, and hoped his skill and reflexes will continue to serve him until the end of that tournament. He has been a sporadic ODI player over the past two years, but having retired from Tests, will now be keen to make his ODI presence count. He has not had an ideal start to the tour, putting his back out before the warm-up match and collecting a second-ball duck in Colombo, but he has overcome far greater obstacles in the past.
There are no injury complaints from the Sri Lanka camp, but the hosts may consider playing Thisara Perera instead of Ashan Priyanjan, depending on whether the surface will assist seam.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Ashan Priyanjan/Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Lasith Malinga
South Africa are unlikely to change a winning combination.
South Africa (probable): 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
There is always a threat of rain in Pallekele, but the forecast suggests it will be cloudy, but dry for the duration of the match.
Stats and trivia
- Dilshan hit 115* in his most recent innings against South Africa in Pallekele
- South Africa has never beaten Sri Lanka in consecutive matches, in Sri Lanka
- After Sunday's hundred, Amla averages 68 in the country
"If we want to stay in the series we have to win the match. We can't say anything about conditions or bad light. We have to play well and win it somehow.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.