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Sri Lanka will be lead by Upul Tharanga in absence of Angelo Mathews AFP & Getty Images

Group B in ICC Champions Trophy 2017 finally gets underway with World No. 1 ODI side South Africa taking on a depleted Sri Lanka at The Oval on Saturday. Over years Sri Lanka have lost several stalwarts, men who had made them a formidable side till two years back. The last time Sri Lanka and South Africa had squared off in an ICC event, it was the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup where South Africa cruised past Sri Lanka, winning their first ever knockout match in a World Cup. At that stage Sri Lanka still had Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in their ranks. Worse, Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews is likely to sit out due to a calf injury. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD, Sri Lanka vs South Africa – Match 3

Sanga is scoring aplenty for nearby Surrey, whose home ground happens to be The Oval. He will be even closer on the day of the match, in the commentary box. In another world, Sri Lanka could have sent him an SOS message. Sri Lanka have lost the magic of their Sanga-and-Murali days but not the spirit. Twice have they scored well over 300 in warm-up games but have ended on the losing side. Upul Tharanga is likely to lead this unit and he derives confidence from Sri Lanka s good show in ICC events.

Sri Lanka have always done well in ICC tournaments, so we have that confidence, said Tharanga to the press on the eve of the match. Recent history, however, is heavily tilted in the favour of South Africans, who had whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 earlier this year. We lost to them 5-0 but we know the areas we have to improve on. Since arriving in England, we have done well so far. Even though we didn t win the games, I think we have a better feeling.

South Africa skipper AB de Villiers accepted Sri Lanka s ability to raise limits in ICC events but remains confident of his side s strength. Stating that the side is peaking at the right time, de Villiers sent out a strong message to the opposition camp stating we have an opportunity to bowl this Sri Lankan side out, so to me it s really important to get your top three bowlers in there.

South Africa have a pace-bowling armoury to choose from. Despite their confidence and recent success South Africa did not step in England on the right foot. Yes, they did manage a win at Lord s but England had outplayed them in the previous 2 games. In fact, in the second ODI the explosive duo of Chris Morris and David Miller had failed to score 7 from Mark Wood s final over. There are areas which South Africa need to address.

De Villiers, however, kept stressing on pushing for bowlers. [It is] not that all-rounders can t do a job, but I d be leaning towards getting our best bowlers in there, de Villiers stressed.

Likely XIs

Mathews adds a lot to the side. His bowling in these conditions is a bonus and he is without a doubt the best batter in the camp. Seekkuge Prasanna may come in to fill that role. There is the talent in Kusal Mendis but much of the batting onus will fall on Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal.

Though Sri Lankan bowlers have not been able to defend scores in excess of 300 in the warm-up games, they are not short of experience. The guile of Lasith Malinga will be needed. He is fresh after a successful IPL. There is also the experience of Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera and the mystery of Lakshan Sandakan whom the South Africans had failed to pick in a T20I earlier this year. Sandakan may go on to play the decisive role for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka s probable XI: Upul Tharanga (c), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kusal Perera (wk), Kusal Mendis (wk), Asela Gunaratne, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga.

AB s clear indication on strengthening the bowling attack may see Morne Morkel retain in his place in the side. Otherwise, this South African side is a well balanced and a strong unit. A fact well reflected in their ranking. Wayne Parnell may pip ahead in the race for slot against Andile Phehlukwayo.

South Africa s probable XI: AB de Villiers (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

Pitch and Conditions:

The track is expected to remain the belter. But again a lot will depend on weather conditions. It is expected to be overcast in London, so seamers may have a role to play here.

Number Games:

– Head-to-head, South Africa have won 34 matches against Sri Lanka, losing 29, while one has ended in a tie.

– South Africa continue to dominate the scene in ICC events. They have a 5-2 upper hand against Sri Lanka. Their only tie came in the 2003 World Cup the famous match that resulted in the South Africa s exist in the Group Stage.

– South Africa have a 2-1 advantage over Sri Lanka in Champions Trophy.

– However, not all numbers favour South Africa. Of 9 ODIs played at The Oval, South Africa have won only 2 and lost 7. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have won 4 and lost 6 in 10 matches.


Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis (wk), Kusal Perera (wk), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Asela Gunaratne, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera, Chamara Kapugedara.

South Africa: AB de Villiers (c & wk), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel, Andile Phehlukwayo.