Sri Lanka arrived in the land of the Proteas down in the dumps, Captain dropped, Coach’s spot in doubt, raw youngsters being readied for sacrifice at the altars of Rabada, Steyn and Philander – then somehow, some way, they produced the unthinkable to beat South Africa in the Test series 2-0 – a feat that’s evaded everyone other than the English and Aussies.
23rd of February, the day Sri Lanka achieved what can only be described as a miraculous result, seems an eternity ago – it hasn’t even been a month but the Sri Lankan ODI line-up has done badly enough that, it feels like those two glorious weekends in February were just a dream. 4-0 down in the series already, Sri Lanka will have one last shot at some success in the 50-over format before the T20Is roll around next week when they face the hosts at The Wanderers for the 5th ODI tomorrow (16th).
Read More : T20I squad announced: Lakmal, Vandersay return
Nothing has gone right for Sri Lanka in the ODIs – at no point (apart from an hour of two at the beginning of their chase of 251 in the 2nd ODI) have they looked like they would challenge the home team. As a result, they’ve now extended their unenviable record of being yet to register a win in 2019.
So many changes have been made to the team that one would be hard pressed to predict a playing XI. In the last game, Niroshan Dickwella, the man who was appointed vice-captain of the limited overs team in just the last series Sri Lanka played, was axed and replaced by Upul Tharanga. Needless to say, the move did not work – Tharanga, for all his experience, just has not looked like scoring runs of late and Dale Steyn made easy work of the left hander.
His partner, at the opposite end of his career, played his shots, as did Kusal Mendis, but both fell playing the pull – or attempting to- Sri Lanka left in dire straits on 131/9 before Isuru Udana, the ‘limited over specialist’ in the team, known more for his bowling than batting, scorched 78 off 57 to take Sri Lanka to 189. You could say he took the visitors to a respectable total, but in an age when 300 runs is par on many surfaces, with 189 on the board, Sri Lanka realistically had little to no chance of getting that much-needed W.
Read More : Hathurusingha to return home; Rixon to fill in
Dhananjaya De Silva opened the bowling for Sri Lanka and even claimed the early wicket of Reeza Hendricks, but the other Protea batters had a decent outing, all getting starts as the hosts ran down the target with 17+ overs to spare, Quinton de Kock cashing in on another half century, his 7th on tour.
It seems like Sri Lanka have tried everything in terms of personnel in the middle, with Angelo Perera being the only man not to get a game on tour thus far. This looks unlikely to change in the ODIs, but given the way the selectors have rotated the players so far, it would be difficult to rule it out.
Sri Lanka Probable XI: Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Priyamal Perera, Kamindu Mendis, Dhananjaya De Silva, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga ©, Vishwa Fernando/Kasun Rajitha
South Africa have given all 15 of their men a good run in the middle and many of the fringe players have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. It was Andrich Nortje’s time to shine in the 4th ODI and the lanky fast bowler broke the back of the Lankan innings with 3-wicket haul.
Dale Steyn and JP Duminy didn’t take long to settle back into the ODI game, after some time on the sidelines, while Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo too were impressive with the ball.
Hendricks would be the one man really disappointed with his performances so far, but he too will likely be persevered with in the final ODI.
South Africa Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis ©, JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phelukwayo, Dale Steyn, Andrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi
Sri Lanka have one last chance to get a W in the ODI format before preparations for the are well and truly underway – they do not play another ODI until May, when they play Scotland ahead of the World Cup – Malinga and his men will be desperate to get on the board, with World Cup spots, even the captain’s, up for grabs.