After South Africa asserted some control over their fate in Sri Lanka, on what was perhaps the driest pitch of the tour to date, it has now fallen to the hosts to arrest the momentum their opponents have gleaned from a big victory
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
After South Africa asserted some control over their fate in Sri Lanka, on what was perhaps the driest pitch of the tour to date, it has now fallen to the hosts to arrest the momentum their opponents have gleaned from a big victory. South Africa's batsmen appeared to have finally cracked the answer to the slow surfaces that sunk them in the first two matches, as they sought to graft securely before embracing aggression very late in the innings.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe then provided the experience that had been missing from South Africa's attack, as he bowled in fearsome tandem with Morne Morkel, to scupper Sri Lanka in the early overs. The pitch being prepared for Sunday looks almost identical to the surface that Friday's match was played on, and South Africa are unlikely to change their game plan or personnel, save for men drifting in and out of the team due to injury. The visitors are also finally fielding at a standard close to their lively best as well, despite the odd missed opportunity.
Sri Lanka's middle order, meanwhile, continues to face criticism at home, having failed once more to spur a meaningful surge on a day when the top order failed. Dinesh Chandimal had some luck during his 65-ball 29, before departing softly, gloving to Quinton de Kock, and he never really had the measure of the surface. Angelo Mathews appeared more at ease while batting, but surrendered his wicket with an irresponsible pull, soon after debutant Angelo Perera had perished in a similar fashion. Given the middle order's track record in the last two months, even a South Africa attack missing Dale Steyn will feel confident that there are only three men among Sri Lanka's batsmen who are capable of playing match-winning innings.
Mathews must also now reassert himself at the helm, after Chandimal's brush with success. In all three matches Chandimal has captained so far (including a Twenty20 against Bangladesh), he has been an eager but astute leader, though his place in the ODI XI is far less secure than Mathews'. There is no real threat to Mathews' captaincy from within the side, but if he cannot complete his first series victory after being handed a 2-0 lead, pressure may begin to build.
(most recent first, five completed matches)
Sri Lanka: LWWLL
South Africa: WLLLT
Players to watch
Thisara Perera had been dropped for the tri-series in the West Indies prior to this tour, but has returned emphatically and is now the leading wicket-taker in the series, as well as the third-highest run-getter. His six-ball blitz against Robin Peterson showcased his power and, on a pitch that may produce another low-scorer, he may again be called upon to blast Sri Lanka to a challenging total. The major weakness in his game appears to be death bowling, which he will need to improve if Sri Lanka continue to play only one specialist pace bowler in future.
David Miller proved he was more than just a big hitter on Friday, when he constructed an innings with care, before finally launching the kind of assault his cricket has become famous for. He worked the spinners cleverly alongside de Villers, playing cautiously against Ajantha Mendis, whom he had only seen briefly at the IPL. His unbeaten 85 is South Africa's only half-century in the series, and Sri Lanka will now look at his game more closely, as they seek to discover weaknesses.
Pitch and conditions
Kandy had its sunniest day in a week on the eve of the match, but the weather is likely to return to its pattern of intermittent showers on Sunday, according to the forecast. The pitch appears to be another slow turner.
Lahiru Thirimanne is fully fit and will probably play, pushing Angelo Perera out of the XI*. Other than that, though, Sri Lanka are likely to remain unchanged.
South Africa are optimistic Hashim Amla will play on Sunday, after he passed a mini fitness test and batted productively in the nets on the eve of the match. He will be thoroughly assessed before the start of play on Sunday, as will Ryan McLaren, who is nursing a strained hamstring he picked up while fielding in the third ODI.
AB de Villiers also said that he enjoyed leading the side without the gloves on and Alviro Petersen may make way for Amla's return, leaving keeper Quinton de Kock in the XI.
South Africa (probable): 1. Hashim Amla/ Alviro Petersen, 2. Quinton de Kock (wk), 3. JP Duminy, 4. AB de Villiers (c), 5. Faf du Plessis, 6. David Miller, 7. Robin Peterson, 8. Farhaan Berhardien, 9. Ryan Mclaren/Chris Morris, 10. Morne Morkel, 11. Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Stats and trivia
The team batting first has won all three matches so far in the series.
The highest successful chase in 11 matches at Pallekele has been Sri Lanka's 200 for 3 against New Zealand, who had set them 198 in a rain-reduced match.
"He has turned out to be a brilliant allrounder for us - with bat and ball. It looked like he was batting on a different strip." Angelo Mathews on Thisara Perera's impact in the series.
"I'm not carrying an injury at all. Quinton's used to keeping and is a good young keeper. We thought I'd have more to add as a fielder than him. Not that I rate myself more than him - but the guys tend to do. From a captaincy point of view, I have more time with my decision-making and time to communicate with the bowlers." AB de Villiers on leading the side after being freed from wicketkeeping duties.
*15.30GMT, July 27: The preview was updated after news of Lahiru Thirimanne being fit came in