Sri Lanka continue search for 1st ODI win in 2019

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Another ODI series lost before the last game has been played. It took a little bit of digging to find out when the Lions last won a bilateral ODI series and it seems hard to imagine that it came way back in the top end of 2016.

Sri Lanka will face South Africa in the 4th of their 5-match ODI series at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, with the series already surrendered. However, with the World Cup looming ahead and both teams looking to finalize their respective squads, the final two games of this series won’t be completely meaningless.

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Just over two weeks ago, Sri Lanka sealed an almost unimaginable feat at Port Elizabeth, as they clinched the 2-match Test series 2-0. But this time, when they make their way back to the venue, their focus will be on getting on the board in ODI cricket in 2019.

In the past three ODIs, Sri Lanka haven’t quite been able to get things right, with their batting in particular. The 3rd ODI, which gave South Africa the series, saw the visitors faltering in all three departments – the fielding looking as sloppy as it has ever been.

The disappointing performances have resulted in some chopping and changing and the last game saw another debut handed out, this time to Kamindu Mendis. As has been the trend during this tour, the debutant turned out to be one of the better performers of the game as the young ambidextrous spinner, who is known more for his batting than his bowling, finished with a satisfactory 1/45 with the ball, as Sri Lanka went for 331.

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Sri Lanka were looking at restricting the hosts to 280-300, but a few let offs in the death saw South Africa soar past that mark to set Sri Lanka a target of 332 to stay alive in the series. Considering that Sri Lanka hadn’t chased a 200+ score against a top 10 nation since the Champions Trophy in 2017, the odds were already stacked heavily against Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka weren’t helped by the weather as a lengthy rain delay left them requiring 193 in 24 overs, meaning they needed 118 off 8 overs from the point at which the game was interrupted. At that point, the visitors had no real choice but to go for some big shots – they were dismissed and fell well short of the target. Kusal Mendis was impressive once again, but could do little to help Sri Lanka’s cause.

Another loss and another injury – Kusal Perera, Sri Lanka’s hero in the Test series, hurt his hamstring while trying to stop a boundary and was ruled out of the rest of the series – a huge blow to the Lankan cause.

Photos: Sri Lanka Team practice session ahead of 4th ODI against South Africa

The loss of Perera may pave the way back in for Dhananjaya De Silva, although considering how the selection process has been of late, do not be surprised if we see another debutant come into the team – Priyamal Perera.

Niroshan Dickwella has not been in the best of form and with the experienced Upul Tharanga waiting in the wings, Sri Lanka could also consider a change at the top of the order.

Sri Lanka Probable XI: Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya De Silva/Priyamal Perera, Kamindu Mendis, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Akila Dananjaya, Kasun Rajitha, Lasith Malinga ©

Quinton de Kock has had a feast against Sri Lanka, he’s enjoyed the tour so much, he probably never wants them to leave. But one thing has evaded him throughout the tour – a century, he ticked the box in Durban as he lifted South Africa to a match winning score.

South Africa have brought back the big guns for the last two ODIs, with Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram and JP Duminy returning to strengthen the Proteas. The inclusion of both Markram and Amla could mean that De Kock gets a rest – it would be a welcome sight for Sri Lanka if that does happen. Duminy will likely slot in at 5, with Miller dropping down to 6 to accommodate the veteran.

With the series gone, picking out a South African playing XI is tricky, but the squad for the final 2 ODIs suggest that we will be seeing a few familiar faces coming back into the playing XI. If de Kock is rested, Miller will likely take on the wicketkeeping duties.

South Africa Probable XI: Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis ©, Rassie van der Dussen, JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Tabrais Shamzi

The game will be all about finding a settled XI for South Africa while Sri Lanka would be desperate to get off the board in ODIs in 2019 – form suggests the Proteas will come out on top yet again, but if Sri Lanka are able to get their act together in all three departments, they may well spring a surprise on the hosts.

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