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July 11, 2014
'Have to nullify Malinga, Dilshan'
Squandering a 1-0 advantage, the spotlight on batsmen to step up against spin, and the likely return of their pace spearhead are exactly what South Africa wanted ahead of their series decider against Sri Lanka. Yes, all three of those things, even though only the last one seems to make sense.
Dale Steyn was forced to leave the field with a thumb injury after bowling only 2.2 overs on Wednesday and suffered severe bruising but no fracture. His recovery has galloped along and by Friday evening, South Africa were more than just hopeful he would be fit for the next match; they all but said they were certain he will be.
Even though Ryan McLaren did an exceptional job as a death bowler with four wickets in his final two overs, having Steyn back will be a boost to South Africa's attack, especially because there is still no clarity on when Jacques Kallis will be able to bowl except that it will not be soon.
The other two factors mentioned earlier, meanwhile, will test South Africa's resilience and resolve, both of which were lacking in Pallekele.
Only Hashim Amla managed a score over 30; the rest of the batsmen's application was woeful. Quinton de Kock was foxed by a round the wicket angle and Kallis was bounced out but most notably, the six batsman from No. 4 to No. 9 were victims of spin, confirming South Africa's soft underbelly is still troubled by turn.
JP Duminy is one of the players who rejects that assertion and wants to use the final ODI to prove it. "It came down to bad shot selection. I am a case in point," he said. Duminy was caught behind as he chased an offbreak, a ball he could have left alone - which may be why he blamed his own judgment and not the art of spin for his dismissal.
Similarly, AB de Villiers, David Miller and Ryan McLaren were all caught in the field after being lured forward by flight. In the lead-up to Saturday's game, Duminy reiterated that the batsmen were to blame for the defeat. "As batters we take full responsibility for those soft dismissals. We want to get it right in the next game. We will prepare well to give ourselves a good chance."
Some of South Africa's preliminary work for the must-win match would have focused on the Hambantota surface, which is expected to suit them more than the one in Pallekele. "The nice thing about this ground is that we've had some good success here," Duminy said. South Africa have won three of the four matches they've played at the ground, albeit 20-over games which included one against Zimbabwe, and the history will give them confidence.
Kallis was not part of that history though and his concern will be the more immediate past. With only one run in the series and no other contribution to speak of, pressure is mounting for him to perform and Duminy thinks he will. "Jacques is a formidable player. He has done it for years. We have all been in difficult situations over the years but I wouldn't call it bad form, it has only been two games. I am sure he is hungry to do well for the team."
Coach Russell Domingo has also given Kallis his backing but explained the wait on him to start bowling cannot continue for much longer. "For us it's a matter of time before he makes an impact with the bat," Domingo said. "Jacques is good enough to play as a specialist batter, but we need him to bowl for us as well. He has a few niggles in his back at the moment, so we won't risk him bowling now, because that will affect his batting."
South Africa are convinced Kallis' efforts with the willow will only get better and they may need that to happen overnight, literally, if they hope to win a first-ever ODI series in Sri Lanka. After their resounding win in the first match, it seemed they would have a good chance of that but the opposite result in the second game has raised questions.
While AB de Villiers bemoaned South Africa's inconsistency, Duminy explained why it is not such a bad thing. "There's pressure on both teams. It's a bit of a final for us," he said. "It's important for us being exposed to these situations. We are going to be playing a lot of one-day games leading up to the World Cup, so the more we get put in these situations, the better it will be for us. Come the World Cup, we will be in a good space in terms of being put in different situations and if we are confronted with these situations in the World Cup, we will know what to do."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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