'I trust our team's strength' - Dasun Shanaka backs Sri Lanka's spinners to come good against South Africa
Captain feels they have the 'better spin-bowling contingent' than opponents South Africa ahead of the limited-overs series
South Africa have some great quicks, but on Khettarama's surfaces
, Sri Lanka's batters need not fear them. Not only this, said Sri Lanka's captain Dasun Shanaka
, but the hosts also have a better spin attack, and as such, should be targeting a 3-0 series sweep.
South Africa are missing fast bowler Lungi Ngidi
on this tour, and no longer have Imran Tahir, who would often torment Sri Lanka in the format. But these were nevertheless bold words from Shanaka, whose team has comfortably lost all four ODI series they have played this year.
But if it is confidence that will turn Sri Lanka's ODI game around, Shanaka felt his team has plenty, on the eve of the first ODI. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka are banking on spin.
"I think we have the winning momentum [following two T20I wins against India], and feel that if our spinners can get a lot of wickets, we should be able to win," Shanaka said. "We have a lot of advantages in this series.
"We have a lot of options on the spin front. We've got Wanindu Hasaranga (legspin), Akila Dananjaya (allsorts), Maheesh Theekshana (offspin), Ramesh Mendis (offspin), Praveen Jayawickrama (left-arm spin), and other options as well. They're all in a good rhythm. I'm looking to play three spinners in the team. South Africa always have a good pace attack. But I think I can guarantee that we have the better spin-bowling contingent at the moment. I trust our team's strength."
"If we can bat out the first 10 overs without losing wickets, that's a big advantage. I think we can do that."
Sri Lanka should perhaps be especially wary of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada - South Africa's quickest bowlers, who have each had success against Sri Lanka before. Shanaka, though, believed the Khettarama surface would neutralise them.
"They've got two very good fast bowlers in Rabada and Nortje, but in our conditions, we're hoping they won't be able to be as effective, because the pitches will be slow.
"Just because they are fast bowlers, that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best. You've also got to think about swing. I hope our batters can play them well. If we can bat out the first 10 overs without losing wickets, that's a big advantage. I think we can do that."
Sri Lanka are desperate for ODI Super League points, having won only two of their 11 completed matches this year, leaving them down at 11th on the Super League table
. Shanaka said his team was aiming for a 3-0 sweep to correct that.
"If we win these three matches, we can rise to fifth on the table. I'm confident we can do well and hope it will boost our chances for the World Cup."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf