Sri Lanka in SA

Proteas primed for Paarl revisit

2012-01-07 22:00
AB de Villiers (File)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - South Africa and Sri Lanka switch rapidly to limited-overs mode as they prepare to do fresh battle in what should be a particularly compelling, five-match one-day international series starting in Paarl on Wednesday.

The ante has been raised after the visitors put up a more stubborn showing than expected by many in the Test series, which they surrendered 2-1 after earning a morale-boosting maiden victory on our turf in the Kingsmead encounter.

It was always anticipated anyway that the Lankans would offer sterner resistance in the ODI portion of the tour: they are 2011 World Cup losing finalists, lest we forget, and currently lie fourth on the ICC rankings in this format, only one slot behind the Proteas.

They very much keep the nucleus of their Test troops for this series, and are also buoyed to a significant degree by the arrival of skiddy, toe-crushing unorthodox paceman Lasith “Slinger” Malinga for the one-dayers, in which he now specialises.

The Proteas, meanwhile, alter their personnel a little more profoundly for the ODI challenge, although several of their best-performing stalwarts from the final-Test triumph at Newlands remain firmly in the mix.

They have injected their squad, now led for the first time by AB de Villiers, with some new blood in the form of Dean Elgar and Rory Kleinveldt - although the comfortably-built Cape Cobras all-rounder has played two prior Twenty20 internationals, and may be a good call to play at Boland Park because of his local knowledge through franchise activity at the venue.

The in-form seamer is also not the worst user of the long handle down the order at times, which could go some way to compensating for the fact that the selectors again chose not to include a known big-hitter in the lower middle order in their plans.

David Miller is struggling to make a domestic impact this season, whilst Albie Morkel, fresh off a SuperSport Series century for the Titans against the Warriors in Benoni and also well set in the second knock at the time of writing, still remains debatably surplus to requirements.

South Africa have not played at Paarl, which traditionally sports a rather funeral pitch but has improved a little in recent times, since December 2002 and only twice in total, which should mean local interest in Wednesday’s opening fixture, a day-night affair, is high.

On that occasion they whipped Pakistan by nine wickets, and the only survivors from that match in their current squad will be the evergreen Jacques Kallis and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson.

The venue has not seen any international activity since it featured three early-round matches in the 2003 World Cup, and has apparently been spruced up to a good degree for the occasion.

Sri Lanka will surely know that this ought to be an immeasurably closer affair than when they last graced the ground, at that tournament: they rolled over minnows Canada for an embarrassing 36 and then got to their target, for the loss of one wicket, in a blink-or-you’d-miss-it tally of 4.4 overs.

Expect rather more expansive usage of the beverage facilities there on Wednesday.

The match starts at 14:30.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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