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Misfiring Sri Lanka face must-win game at high-scoring venue

Match facts

Saturday, February 4, 2017
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)

Big picture

Two matches in, Sri Lanka are already faced with having to save the five-ODI series, and are yet to crack 200. Instead of being concerned by the lack of runs from his top order, coach Graham Ford has been encouraged by glimpses of good batting from the younger players. Ford is coach until at least 2019, and has clearly set his sights on the long term. If Sri Lanka are to avoid a series defeat in Johannesburg, however, there will have to be at least some immediate improvement. In addition to the crumble-prone batting, lack of penetration through the middle and back end of the opposition innings - problems that have plagued Sri Lanka since as far back as the 2015 World Cup - may have to be righted.

South Africa's top order is a powerhouse, in contrast. Four of the top five have hundreds on this tour, the only exception being AB de Villiers with whom a century never seems far. On Wednesday, the bowling only had to be disciplined rather than destructive, with such a formidable score to defend, but thanks to some breathtaking catching, Sri Lanka failed to be competitive beyond the first ten overs of the chase.

In short, South Africa have out-batted, out-bowled, out-fielded and out-bumpatted their visitors, and are primed to continue doing so. Sri Lanka's best hopes may lay, as ever, in the wrists and fingers of their spinners.

The teams encountered a green Wanderers track in the Tests, and a tawny one in the T20s, but pink will be the dominant colour at Saturday's ODI, as the South Africa team and the venue deck themselves out in support of breast cancer awareness. For what it's worth, South Africa have never lost in pink - de Villiers memorably hitting the fastest century ever, in the pink ODI two years ago. Why they have not deployed this kit in World Cup knockout matches is a question that demands answers.

In Sri Lanka, the island will be celebrating its 69th anniversary of independence from the British.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

South Africa: WWWWW
Sri Lanka: LLWWL

In the spotlight

David Miller may have snatched the attention towards the end of South Africa's innings in Durban, but it was Faf du Plessis who beat the back of the spinners after they had begun to wrap their tendrils around the South Africa innings. He didn't always pick the direction of Lakshan Sandakan's turn, but du Plessis' reading of length was immaculate, and clinical footwork always seemed to furnish him with a bail-out shot should the ball surprise him. In six ODI innings since October, he has four fifty-plus scores, including two centuries. Sri Lanka will always worry about Hashim Amla and de Villiers, but du Plessis is the man in form.

For a long time Sri Lanka's fandom has been unsure what to make of Upul Tharanga - clearly one of the most gifted batsmen in the country, but one susceptible to long stretches of modest returns. Now the selectors and team management (which includes himself, as he is captain), seem unsure what to do with him as well. Should he bat in the lower-middle order, where he has had some success in recent years, or at the top: the scene of his famed 13 centuries? On Wednesday he produced a heart-swelling, glorious 26, which detractors will say is the quintessential Tharanga innings. Sri Lanka will look to him for leadership with the bat, as well as on the field.

Team news

With Miller out of the series due to a finger injury, Farhaan Behardien is likely to take his place. There are unlikely to be too many other changes for South Africa.

South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir

Sri Lanka's XI is fluid, as ever, but having tried stacking their side with left-arm spin on Wednesday, they may seek to beef up their seam attack at the Wanderers. Lahiru Madushanka and Lahiru Kumara could be in line for ODI debuts.

Sri Lanka(possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella, 2 Sandun Weerakkody, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Upul Tharanga (capt), 6 Dhananjaya de Silva/Lahiru Madushanka, 7 Asela Gunaratne, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Pitch and conditions

The Wanderers has generally been a 300+ venue in recent years, and another batting-friendly pitch is expected on Saturday. The weather is expected to remain good for the duration of the match.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa have breached 300 on each of the six most-recent occasions in which they have batted first at the Wanderers. They have twice made scores of above 400 at the venue - one of those was batting second.

  • This match will be Faf du Plessis' 100th ODI.

  • Sri Lanka had successfully chased South Africa's 312 for 4 when the teams last met in an ODI at this venue. A hundred from Kumar Sangakkara and a 69 from Lahiru Thirimanne had helped carry Sri Lanka to 314 for 8.

Quotes

"Unfortunately none of our batsmen converted starts but they certainly showed they have got the talent to play at this level and to make an impact at this level."
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford is optimistic about Sri Lanka's long-term batting prospects despite the series scoreline

Hunting ground

646

Runs scored by De Villiers from 9 innings at the Wanderers before today's game. He has 3 hundreds and a SR of 133.19.

Personal Landmark

100

Number of ODIs played by Faf Du Plessis. He became the 21st cricketer from SA to reach this feat.He has scored 3514 runs at 42.33 before today's game.

On a roll

2012

Last instance of SA losing an ODI at the Wanderers . SL beat SA by 2 wickets. Since then they have won 4 in 4.