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The Preview by Firdose Moonda
March 21, 2014
Match factsMarch 22, 2014, Chittagong
South Africa have not won a knock-out match at an ICC event in 16 years, since they lifted the Champions Trophy in 1998. Sri Lanka have reached three tournament finals in the last four years, two in World T20s, and lost all of them. The pair of perennial bridesmaids are lining up to see if one of them catch the bouquet this time.
Sri Lanka are among the favourites to do it. They have a good all-round squad and some of this format's headline players. This is also the last tournament for their two longest-serving batsmen. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will retire from Twenty20 internationals at the tournament and there will be no better way than to send them off with a trophy.
For a change, South Africa are not among the picks to win. Middling form in limited-overs cricket despite being the top-ranked Test team in the world, and embarrassing exists at the 2012 World T20, in which they lost all three Super Eight matches and the Champions Trophy, where they were bundled out in the semi-final by England, has seen them lose ground. But South Africans remain hopeful that on day their fortunes at major tournaments will change.
Both had two warm-up games, Sri Lanka lost one to West Indies and beat India. South Africa stuttered but recovered to beat Bangladesh A and rolled Pakistan. Not much can be read into that. A clearer idea of how these teams stack up will be known after their first game. South Africa have the recent edge over Sri Lanka having won a series against them, but at the end of the day it will boil down to which bridesmaid can reach up higher, beyond what they thought they could, to try and hold on this time.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
When South Africa beat Sri Lanka in T20 series in their own backyard last August JP Duminy was the leading run-scorer. He amassed 132 runs in the three matches and scored two half-centuries. Duminy's promise with the bat is well-known and he is starting to fulfill it as expected but he has since developed another aspect of his game as well. Although referred to as nothing more than a part-time bowler, Duminy made a reputation for being a partnership breaker with the ball. With scalps in the warm-ups, he has proved he can be a threat in these conditions as well and his all-round ability will be what South Africa banks on in this tournament.
With Duminy making headlines as only a secondary spinner, it's hardly a surprise that Sri Lanka's tweakers will be the players to keep an eye on. The talk leading up to this tournament has been mostly about turn, especially where a side like South Africa is concerned. Despite having astute players of spin like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in their side, South Africa are perceived to struggle in the subcontinent and their ODI series defeat to Sri Lanka last year did not help that. The opening match may well be decided on who wins the battle between Sri Lanka's spinners and South Africa's batsmen.
South Africa are sweating over the fitness of their captain Faf du Plessis and their pace spearhead, Dale Steyn, both of whom are carrying hamstring injuries. They will have fitness tests on the morning of the game but it seems unlikely du Plessis will play. He batted in the nets the day before the match but running was a problem. If he misses out, AB de Villiers will lead in his absence and Farhaan Behardien will bat up the order. Steyn has been bowling in practice but South Africa may not to risk him if he is not 100%. That will leave their attack with two left-armers in Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell (or Beuran Hendricks as an outside chance), one specialist spinner in Imran Tahir and Duminy as an additional option.
South Africa: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis/Farhaan Behardien, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Wayne Parnell/Dale Steyn 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11 Imran Tahir
Sri Lanka will likely to stick to a familiar XI which will see Kusal Perera open with Tillakaratne Dilshan and a four-seam, two frontline spin attack. The only uncertainty is whether they will opt for Ajantha Mendis or Rangana Herath. Both bowled in Sri Lanka's defence of 153 against India and while Mendis took a wicket, Herath was more economical.
Sri Lanka: 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Mahela Jayawardene, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachitra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis/Rangana Herath
Pitch and conditions
Before South Africa left Dhaka on Thursday, one of the first things Russell Domingo said they would be aware of was that conditions in Chittagong would be different so adapting would be key. He was right. A grassy track, which promises to be quicker than initially thought, greeted the teams which could mean less of a spin factor first up. There is also expected to less chance of dew because the match is being played in the afternoon. Clear skies are forecast with temperatures between 26 and 30 degrees.
Stats and Trivia
"They have good spinners and it will be crucial how we play spin. Luckily the wicket, doesn't seem like it has too much spin. But also they have got other danger bowlers. Malinga is a dangerous T20 bowler and they have other match winners."
Faf du Plessis is wary of the spin threat Sri Lanka poses
"They played some really good cricket in Sri Lanka so we never underestimate any team."
But Dinesh Chandimal believes South Africa can match up to his tweakers
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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