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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

South Africa need a spin intervention against improving Sri Lanka

Heinrich Klaasen stumps Dhananjaya de Silva off Keshav Maharaj Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Big picture

It was to nobody's surprise that Sri Lanka turned to spin to defeat South Africa in the first ODI. But what will have been heartening for the home fans, was the poise and determination their team showed when a target of 301 came under threat. South Africa were in the hunt for 90% of the chase, but despite some expensive overs, captain Dasun Shanaka trusted his more experienced spinners, and they, along with Dushmantha Chameera, ensured that 10 crucial ODI Super League points came their way.

It was not so long ago that Sri Lanka seemed hapless against England, and even a second-string India. Their win on Thursday was far from clinical, but suggested that the team was learning from its mistakes, and was perhaps on the path to improvement.

South Africa will feel they were not too far away from victory themselves, but will likely know that they bowled too much seam on that surface. Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo all went at well over a run-a-ball. Can they get more overs out of part-time offspinner Aiden Markram?

The bigger worry, of course, is that they will no longer have captain Temba Bavuma for the remainder of the series, after he sustained a fracture in his thumb. Replacing him at the helm is Keshav Maharaj, who has only played 12 ODIs. With Qunton de Kock and David Miller not on tour, this is a relatively inexperienced team all round. They will need to rally together to fight back from 1-0 down.

Form guide

(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWLLL
South Africa LWLLW

In the spotlight

When Avishka Fernando puts up a score, Sri Lanka tend to be competitive. In his last three innings, Fernando has made 50, 76 and 118, and Sri Lanka were in winning positions in all of them (they lost the match he hit 50 in though). Once a batter who relied largely on his natural gift of timing, Fernando appears to have developed into a more consistent run-getter. Powerplay boundaries were once a fundamental plank of his game; now he can do without them, having worked on his accumulation in the middle overs. Vitally, he has also improved his fitness, which means he is better placed to push for those twos and threes once the ring field relaxes.

Although Khettarama surfaces are spin-friendly, the venue does not neuter quicks completely. As the most-experienced player in South Africa's XI now, Kagiso Rabada will perhaps know that there is a measure of leadership that is expected from him on this tour. The most common way in which quicks contribute at this venue is by claiming new-ball wickets - some modest seam and swing usually on offer. On Thursday, Sri Lanka's openers laid a decent foundation for the rest of the batting order to build on; early Rabada wickets will change all that.

Pitch and conditions

Expect another surface that rewards the slower bowlers, and change of pace from the quicks. Afternoon and evening thunderstorms are a threat to an uninterrupted game, as is often the case in Colombo.

Team news

Sri Lanka are unlikely to mess with a winning combination.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Avishka Fernando, 2 Minod Bhanuka (wk), 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt.), 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Praveen Jayawickrama

With Bavuma out, Reeza Hendricks seems the likeliest to replace him in the top order.

South Africa (possible): 1 Janneman Malan, 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Aiden Markram, 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 Kyle Verreyne, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Keshav Maharaj (capt.), 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Stats and trivia

  • If Sri Lanka win on Saturday, they will secure their first bilateral ODI series victory against South Africa since 2013. South Africa have won four series against Sri Lanka since.

  • Fernando needs 54 more to complete 1000 career runs in ODIs. If he gets there in the next two innings, he will become the fastest Sri Lanka batter to the milestone, beating Roy Dias, who got there in 27 innings.

  • Rassie van der Dussen, meanwhile, became the third equal-fastest batter to that same milestone (1000 ODI runs), during his 59 on Thursday. He got there in 21 innings. Five other batters have all got there in 21 innings - Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Babar Azam and de Kock.

Sri Lanka 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st18M BhanukaWIA Fernando
2nd0PBB RajapaksaM Bhanuka
3rd1DM de SilvaM Bhanuka
4th42DM de SilvaKIC Asalanka
5th64MD ShanakaKIC Asalanka
6th16KIC AsalankaPWH de Silva
7th6C KarunaratneKIC Asalanka
8th45PVD ChameeraC Karunaratne
9th2PVD ChameeraA Dananjaya
10th3A DananjayaP Jayawickrama