Proteas: Why lightning shouldn't strike twice

2019-02-27 16:13
Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Self-belief ... Sri Lanka should suddenly have an unusually large dollop of it as they prepare for the five-match ODI series against South Africa from Sunday at the Wanderers.

Although veteran pace slingshot and renowned toe-crusher Lasith Malinga now enters the fray as captain, their squad will contain a good sprinkling of customers responsible for the historic 2-0 Test series upset and probably still revelling in it.

But just how likely is it that the 'Lankan "David" will fell the South African "Goliath" all over again?

Just as was the case ahead of the short Test series, the tourists will fly dramatically in the face of history if they do take the spoils.

Simultaneously, it would set alarm bells really ringing out loudly around the Proteas in terms of their World Cup 2019 prospects not too long afterwards, as Sri Lanka are ranked a lowly eighth on the latest ODI ladder to their fourth.

What's more, the team from the Subcontinent are still in the throes of one of the worst sequences of bilateral series failures imaginable.

Since beating the minnows of Ireland 2-0 away in 2016, Sri Lanka have played 11 further one-on-one series and been beaten in 10 of them, with just one share of the spoils (1-1 at home to Bangladesh) to show.

The period includes several clean-sweep humiliations, too: from most recently, those encompass 0-3 in New Zealand, 0-5 against Pakistan in the neutral UAE, 0-5 against India away, 0-5 against South Africa in their last series on our shores (2016/17) and 0-3 against England away.

Such stinging outcomes do little to suggest Sri Lanka are serious shots at the CWC 2019 title from late May to early July.

Also to bear in mind is that when the Proteas whipped them in that last SA-staged series between the two nations, the margins were pretty big each time: eight wickets at St George's Park, 121 runs at Kingsmead, seven wickets at the Wanderers, 40 runs at Newlands and 88 runs at Centurion.

So there was hardly any edge-of-the-chair stuff, and it would really be in both teams' interest if there are some contrasting cliff-hangers this time, providing better opportunities to gauge various players' mettle under pressure with the massive UK-staged event in mind.

Given the broad current climate of fragility around South African batting, that looks an altogether likelier scenario this time, and the Sri Lankans will also have taken gleeful note, you'd think, of the Proteas' ongoing preoccupation with keeping specialist stroke-playing resources to a risky minimum in favour of a bowler-heavy squad - at least for the first three ODIs in the series.

Back in the 2016/17 bilateral ODI combat on our soil, SA ended with an impressive list of batting achievers: Faf du Plessis rattled up 410 runs at an average of 102.50, and three others averaged over 50: Farhaan Behardien (68), AB de Villiers (57) and Hashim Amla (52).

None of the last-named three will be in action this time, although Amla may well be restored for the closing two fixtures.

There have been four SA-staged series between the two countries in the 50-overs format, with the Proteas winning every one of them: 5-0 as mentioned in 2016/17, 3-2 in 2011/12, 4-1 in 2002/03 and 5-1 in 2000/01.

Considering that the Proteas triumphed in the last series in Sri Lanka last year (3-2), anything but a South African win at home will leave the suggestion that they may be slipping backwards at a notably inconvenient time.

But they say lightning doesn't strike twice ... don't they?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    sri lanka  |  proteas  |  faf du plessis  |  cricket


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