South Africa will be aiming to break free from their ‘chokers’ tag in ICC World T20 2014 © AFP
By Shrikant Shankar
Mar 21, 2014
South Africa will aim for a winning start when then take on a confident Sri Lanka in the first match in Group 1 in the ICC World T20 2014. Their clash is on March 22 at Chittagong.
South Africa are a team in complete transition in all three formats with some heavyweights retiring recently. They were outclassed by Australia in the recent home Twenty20 International series. South Africa rely heavily on a few players and opposing teams will be focused on nullifying that threat. Sri Lanka are seen by many as the main favourites to lift the T20 World Cup title. They have been in Bangladesh for a long time now, and have also won the Asia Cup 2014 tournament. Sri Lanka will indeed feel they have an upperhand as they are better acclimatised than their African opponents.
The Proteas and the Lankans are in a group comprising England, New Zealand and a qualifying team from Group B. This is a slightly easier group to negotiate through to the semi-finals. On many counts, South Africa may not even make it to that semi-final stage. Injuries to certain players has not helped them coming into the World T20. They did win both their warm-up matches against Bangladesh A and Pakistan, and in fact the win over Pakistan was comprehensive by all means. But these were only warm-ups and not much can be read into the results.
South Africa are led by Faf du Plessis and their best player is AB de Villiers. Hashim Amla, David Miller and JP Duminy make up the backbone of the batting line-up. They have an exciting and highly talented wicketkeeper-batsman in Quinton de Kock. Du Plessis is actually an injury doubt, so de Villiers may captain the side against Sri Lanka. Dale Steyn will walk into any line-up but he too has injury concerns and that could hamper South Africa.
That would mean the likes of Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Aaron Phangiso, Beuran Hendricks, Wayne Parnell will have to take the responsibility in the fast bowling department. Imran Tahir is the lone major spinner and he could come under some heavy treatment against better batsmen. Albie Morkel is a genuine all-rounder and South Africa would need him to fire, especially in the batting department.
Dinesh Chandimal-led Sri Lanka also have some players who are The main players are obviously Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews. Tillakaratne Dilshan has not been in the form like he was in the 2009 edition. They also have the likes of the exciting Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne at the top of the order.
The bowling is very strong as they are led by Malinga. Nuwan Kulasekara and Suranga Lakmal make up the fast bowling department. Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake are the main spinners and they are not easy to score against in conditions that suit spin bowling. Thisara Perera is a very important all-rounder for Sri Lanka along with Mathews. Overall, there is a lot of balance in the team as South Africa seem to lack that very aspect.
If all the big guns fire on all cylinders, then this will be a cracking contest. Sri Lanka are one of the favourites to win the tournament, so, there will be more expectation on them to win this match. This is not a ‘David vs Goliath’ contest, but this is certainly where an unpredictable South Africans take one a consistent favourite.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), AB De Villiers (wk), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Beuran Hendricks, Aaron Phangiso, Imran Tahir, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, David Miller, Wayne Parnell.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachitra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne.
Time: 15:00 IST | 09:30 GMT
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(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)