By Champika Fernando in Johannesburg
Can Sri Lanka up their game ahead of the series decider? This is a question that has been asked by all and sundry as an under-strength Sri Lanka take on South African in the third ODI of the five-match series here at the Wanderers Stadium on Saturday (4).
A hard task, given the current state of the team which lacks firepower in their batting and venom in their bowling to challenge a star-studded South Africans, but Sri Lanka stand-in Skipper Upul Tharanga has not lost hopes with his young charges.
“If you look at the last two matches, we have struggled as a batting unit. However, in the last match most of us got the start, scoring 20s and 30s but could not convert them big. We need at least two guys to bat through the innings and score hundreds. Hopefully, they will step up and do it for us today,” said Tharanga.
“It’s being a tough series so far but we know we can come back and we have three more matches to do that. Like I said we will do our best to turn things around,” he added.
South Africa chased down Sri Lanka’s meager total of 181 with ease to record an eight-wicket win in Port Elizabeth to bowl out Sri Lanka for 186 to take a commanding 121-run win in Durban, an indication of how strong the hosts have been so far in the series.
Sri Lanka opted not to train yesterday which has made it difficult for them to decide the playing XI but Tharanga is expected to open batting as he did in Durban with the possibility of Sandun Weerakkody’s return to strengthen the fragile middle-order.
“We have to see the pitch and make the final call,” he said. Weerakkody made his debut in the tour opener, just hours after landing in South Africa and did not play the second ODI as Sri Lanka opted for a spin heavy attack.
The conditions at the Wanderers have been quite favourable for the Sri Lankans as they have won two of the four matches played here including their last outing in 2012 when T. M. Dilshan led Sri Lanka beat the hosts by two wickets.
South Africa will take the field without their inform batsman and power-hitter David Miller who has been ruled out of the rest of the series with a finger injury but his absence is likely to make little impact with enough firepower left in their reserves to take up that spot.
This will interestingly be the 100th ODI for Francois du Plessis, the Man of the Match in the Durban encounter.
South Africa will play the third ODI in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer.