January 22, Johannesburg Start time 1000 (0800 GMT)
The Big Picture
It is hard to believe that less than ten months ago, Sri Lanka were World Cup finalists. After the heartbreak of April 2, 2011, they have lost series to England, Australia, Pakistan and now South Africa. Tillakaratne Dilshan's helpless, yet inwardly hurting, visage has been a common sight in all those defeats. Sunday's game could be Dilshan's last as Sri Lanka captain. There have been calls back home to sack him as leader. Some even want him to be dropped from the side. They want change.
What is being forgotten is that it is not only Dilshan who has failed. Sri Lanka's senior batsmen have consistently failed. Their fast bowlers have picked up more injuries than wickets. The hunt for a match-winning spinner continues. To hold Dilshan responsible for all these failures is to ask the world of what was only a stop-gap appointment.
It hasn't helped that leadership does not come to Dilshan as naturally as attacking batting does. The only way he knew was to lead by example, and on that count, he has definitely failed. Even more revealing than a disappointing batting average of 19.95 has been his bowling return of three wickets at 129.33. Dilshan the bowler was Sri Lanka's partnership breaker. Dilshan the captain has turned Dilshan the bowler into a default Plan B. When the wickets are not coming, he brings himself on. When the runs are flowing, he brings himself on. It shows cluelessness, it shows desperation, and it hasn't worked.
Dilshan finally put it together in the fourth ODI with an innings that seemed to have shaken off the shackles binding him. Sri Lanka took the cue from their captain and an uninhibited Thisara Perera blazed them to their first win of the series. If this indeed turns out to be Dilshan's final game as captain, he would want his side to play like he has throughout his career. Without apprehension.
Sri Lanka's struggles have made AB de Villiers' first series as captain much easier than he would have thought. There were signs of panic, though, when Perera started to hit out. Suddenly, the fielding came down several notches, catches were spilled and de Villiers lost control over proceedings. He admitted after the game to have erred tactically. There will be time for him to learn on the job. A win in South Africa's final game of the home summer season would not be a bad start on the learning curve.
South Africa LWWWL Sri Lanka WLLLL
Watch out for …
The under-pressure Graeme Smith made only his second half-century in 17 innings in Kimberley. At the very least, his 68 has silenced the critics till Sunday. Another failure will renew the calls for him to be dropped from the limited-overs side. South Africa's Test captain can do without such added pressure ahead of the tours of New Zealand and England. He needs one more meaty performance tomorrow.
For a proud performer who has looked in supreme touch in the previous two matches, Kumar Sangakkara's 77 runs for the series don't do him justice. He was run-out after a mix-up in Bloemfontein while what should have been a six was turned into a catch by Alviro Petersen in Kimberley. Will he have better luck in Johannesburg?
Robin Peterson has taken only four wickets in four games and hasn't been able to squeeze the flow of runs as well. South Africa have run out of reasons to deny Johan Botha, a better batsman than Peterson, a place in the XI. Albie Morkel was "rested" for the fourth ODI after having bowled ten overs in three games. Both Albie and Botha could play tomorrow. That will mean Vernon Philander and Peterson sit out.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Wayne Parnell, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Sri Lanka would not want to tinker with the XI that won in Kimberley. That means the offspinner Sachithra Senanayake could get another game ahead of Dhammika Prasad.