Sri Lanka will bring their 1-and-a-half-month tour of South Africa to an end with the 3rd T20I against the hosts in Johannesburg. After dominating for much of the 1st two games, South Africa have let themselves down on occasion but still lead the series 2-0 going into the dead rubber tomorrow (24th).
Series so far
After a poor batting display in the 1st game of the series, the bowlers, led chiefly by Captain Lasith Malinga, managed to force a super over. The game could have been won in regular time, but the visitors were left to rue the missed opportunities on the field as South Africa comfortably overcame them in the super over, thanks to some brilliance from leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
The teams then travelled to Centurion for the 2nd game, confident of leveling the series. However, another poor batting performance in the pursuit of 181, which left them on 62/6 at one point, resulted in them surrendering the series to the Proteas on a good batting track.
Malinga continued to do the business with the ball at the death – a good sign for Sri Lanka – while Isuru Udana almost won the game for the visitors single-handedly – smashing 84 off 48 deliveries – his 2nd half-century on tour.
Apart from the pair, there was little to celebrate for the Sri Lankans as only 3 batsmen went past 20 in the innings. The visitors lost by just 16 runs in the end, a deficit they could have covered if just one other batsman had stepped up. Nevertheless, the game was lost and with it the series, meaning that Sri Lanka will now be playing for pride in the 3rd T20I.
Players to watch out for
Kamindu Mendis looks like a World Cup hopeful, particularly because of his ability with the ball. Chief Selector Asantha de Mel has made it clear that Sri Lanka may look to go with a few all-around options at the tournament and Mendis is definitely one the management will be considering. It hasn’t even been six months since he made his debut in international cricket, but the youngster has already caught the eye, with his ambidexterity with the ball. He hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity with the ball during the T20Is, but will be looking to impress as much as he can in the last international Sri Lanka play before the World Cup squad is picked.
After the series in New Zealand, many thought Thisara Perera had turned a corner. No one had doubted his talent, but the big man had been unable to deliver on his potential until then. However, the series in South Africa has been a disaster so far, with Perera unable to produce wickets nor runs. He will be desperate to get his act together or risk being left behind when the team travels to the United Kingdom.
Chris Morris was a notable absentee from the ODI series and 1st T20I. But the talented all-rounder had an impact as soon as he was given an opportunity in the last game, picking up 3 wickets after opening the bowling alongside Dale Steyn. A similar player in some ways to Thisara Perera, Morris too hasn’t yet delivered to potential but will be looking for any opportunity to impress the selectors.
Coming into this series, the name Rassie van der Dussen probably wasn’t one the Sri Lankans would have focused too much on. However, the top order batsman has delivered time and again, playing a good supporting role with the bat in most games in both the ODI and T20I series. Another up and coming player, he too will be keen to keep the runs coming and could potentially cause the South African selectors some headaches come late-April.
South Africa is unlikely to make any changes to their line-up, particularly with just 13 in the squad, including the injured Andrich Nortje.
Sri Lanka may look to give the likes of Sadeera Samarawickrama, Asitha Fernando and Suranga Lakmal, who have not featured in the limited overs games so far, a go before the series ends.
Sri Lanka Probable XI: Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Kusal Mendis (wk), Angelo Perera, Kamindu Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Akila Dananjaya, Asitha Fernando, Lasith Malinga ©
South Africa Probable XI: Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, JP Duminy ©, David Miller, Sinethemba Qeshile (wk), Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius, Dale Steyn, Lutho Sipamla, Tabraiz Shamsi
Sri Lanka is still searching for that elusive 1st limited overs win in 2019 and now they’ve come to their last international game before naming the World Cup squad. They will be disappointed with the showing in the T20Is, where they have at least looked more competitive in patches than they did in the ODIs. A dead rubber it may be, but South Africa will be determined to finish the series off on a high after what happened in the Tests and the way Sri Lanka have been playing, it would be hard to bet against them.