Gibson shifts focus to experimentation for last two ODIs

South Africa celebrate the wicket of Niroshan Dickwella AFP

Following the horrors that were their three-day and four-day Test defeats, the one-dayers could hardly have gone better for South Africa. They had two main objectives in the series - a) to recover some one-day form after having been beaten 5-1 at home by India earlier in the year, and b) to trial several players with a view to the World Cup. The first has already been emphatically achieved, with Sri Lanka not getting close to South Africa in any of the three matches so far. The second objective is halfway done as well, but with the series now decided, South Africa can kick their experimentation up to a new gear.

"We will be making changes," coach Ottis Gibson said ahead of the fourth ODI, in Pallekele. "The intention from the outset was to take a look at other players. We have two games and we have that opportunity. We have not finalised who we are going to look at in the fourth ODI, but I am pretty sure we will make some changes."

Some of the players South Africa have had "a look at", have done exceedingly well so far. Reeza Hendricks hit a maiden ODI ton on Sunday, after coming into the side in place of the misfiring Aiden Markram. Left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi has also claimed six wickets in the series so far.

"The last ten ODIs have been about getting ourselves ready for the World Cup," Gibson said. "In the last match Faf [du Plessis] went from No. 3 to No. 4, and Reeza Hendricks has come and done very well at No. 3. We have left Imran Tahir at home in order to look at another spinner and Tabraiz Shamsi has done well. We still have to look at Keshav Maharaj who is our No. 1 Test spinner. We have answered lot of questions but there's lot more we could do."

One more player South Africa would like to trial before the series ends is Heinrich Klaasen - ordinarily a wicketkeeper-batsman, though he will likely play as a specialist batsman, with Quinton de Kock likely to retain the gloves. Klaasen had produced a promising international innings, albeit in T20s, having hit 69 not out off 30 balls against India in February. However, he has been battling a groin niggle through the course of this series, which has kept him out of the side.

"Fingers crossed that Klaasen will be okay to play tomorrow," Gibson said. "He was quite close to playing the last game, but he himself felt that although running on a straight line he was fine, certain movements where he has to turn laterally he was feeling unsteady. We didn't want to risk him, but we're really hoping that he is good to go this game. After the way he started against India, he is somebody we want to see. He is a very good player of spin."