January 20, 2017
Start time 1800 local (1600 GMT)
In a year with no World T20, it would be easy to forget the shortest format exists at international level, but South Africa and Sri Lanka are doing their bit to keep it alive and kicking. The three-match whirlwind series takes place in five days and will feature an almost entirely new-look South African outfit. Only four members of the squad that played in the World T20 last March, 10 months ago, have been included in the 13-man group for the first two matches as South Africa look to the future.
They have assembled the best players from the last two seasons' domestic T20 competition, and given an opportunity to veterans like Heino Kuhn, who has played professional cricket for more than a decade, and rookies like Lungi Ngidi, who at 20 has already featured in two franchise T20 finals. Of particular interest will be Jon-Jon Smuts, who may make a case as a long-term opening option and Theunis de Bruyn, whose star is rising in all formats.
Sri Lanka's squad has a more familiar hue but with one superstar omission. Lasith Malinga has failed to regain fitness after a bout of dengue fever and had to make himself unavailable for the South Africa tour, leaving Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep to carry the seam-bowling responsibilities along with recalled players, Nuwan Kulasekara and Isuru Udana.
With only one new batsmen in their ranks, Thikshila de Silva, Sri Lanka will look to their line-up to do a better job than they managed in the Tests even though their form in shorter formats has not been particularly promising. Still, such an inexperienced host side may present Sri Lanka with their best chance to enjoy some success.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WLWLL
Sri Lanka: LLLLL
In the spotlight
David Miller is in the unusual position of being South Africa's most experienced batsman. Captain Farhaan Behardien confirmed that Miller will bat higher than his usual No.6 spot, perhaps at No.4 where he scored a century for the Knights earlier in the season, in order to give him the best chance of facing as many balls as possible. Behardien said if Miller faces between 50 and 60 balls, he is almost guaranteed a hundred because of his strike rate. No pressure, then.
Angelo Mathews was under fire for his tactics in the Test series, particularly in the way he used his bowlers, including himself. The limited-overs contests will be a chance for him to redeem himself. Mathews is much more respected as a short-format bowler and will likely take the new ball in a bid to strike upfront. He will have the opportunity to set the tone and, having failed to do that in the longer formats, will know his performance over the next few weeks could be important to his survival as captain.
South Africa could field as many as six new caps in a completely new-look XI which should see the T20 competition's leading run-scorer Jon-Jon Smuts open the batting with veteran Heino Kuhn. David Miller, who will bat up the order through the series, and Farhaan Behardien will provide middle-order experience around Theunis de Bruyn and Reeza Hendricks. Mangaliso Mosehle will keep wicket, while Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlulwayo make the allrounder contingent. Dane Paterson will compete with Lungi Ngidi for a place while Imran Tahir could edge out Aaron Phangiso as the sole spinner.
South Africa: 1 Jon-Jon Smuts, 2 Heino Kuhn, 3 Theunis de Bruyn, 4 David Miller, 5 Farhaan Behardien (capt), 6 Reeza Hendricks, 7 Mangaliso Mosehle (wk), 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Dane Paterson, 11 Imran Tahir
Sri Lanka will need a new opener to partner Danushka Gunathilaka and may turn to one of their youngsters Kusal Mendis or Dhananjaya de Silva to do the job. Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal will hope to turn a disappointing tour around, while Thikshila may make his debut. Two specialist spinners and two seamers, in addition to captain Angelo Mathews, could make up the Sri Lankan attack.
Sri Lanka: 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Kusal Mendis/Dhananjaya de Silva, 3 Angelo Mathews (capt), 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Niroshan Dickwella, 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Thikshila de Silva, 8 Sachith Pathirana, 9 Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Nuwan Pradeep, 11 Suranga Lakmal
Pitch and conditions
Centurion is known for its spicy surface but in limited-overs matches it tends to favour batsmen a little more. This season, though, it has been a touch slower and seen some lower-scoring contests in the domestic T20 competition. Still, at altitude, the ball is set to travel. Tickets have been sold out for the spectacle. A perfect summer's evening is forecast, with temperatures cooling down from 31 degrees and no afternoon thundershowers lurking.
Stats and trivia
South Africa and Sri Lanka have never a played a T20 in South Africa before. They have faced each other six times, of which South Africa have won four matches and lost two.
The last time South Africa and Sri Lanka met in a T20 was at the World T20 - which was also when South Africa last played in the format - and South Africa chased 121 to win comfortably by eight wickets with 14 balls to spare.
"As a captain I try to be very lighthearted. The players need to make their own decisions, bring their own flair in the change-room. When they do that, that's when they can perform at their best and not feel restricted to any sort of structure or anything."
South Africa's new T20 captain Farhaan Behardien explains his style of leadership will be to empower players and give the freedom to express themselves.