Hambantota: Sri Lanka are expected to play hard on Sunday in their endeavour to win the second Twenty20 international against South Africa and bring the three-match series on level terms at 1-1, but the hosts might continue with their policy of testing the bench strength in preparation for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next year.
Sri Lanka didn't play their first XI in the opening Twenty20, where they couldn't chase a meager 115 and eventually lost by 12 runs despite a half century by veteran Kumara Sangakkara, but captain Dinesh Chandimal suggests that they will continue to put the youngsters to test.
Their young batsmen, like Kusal Perera, are yet to produce knocks that could match the likes of the Sangakkaras and Mahela Jayawardenes. Perera has averaged just over five in his last seven international knocks and is particularly under lots of pressure to deliver and avoid being sent back to domestic cricket.
File photo of veteran Sri Lankan batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
But if the hosts continue with the policy of resting one of their seniors, Tillakaratne Dilshan could be seen putting his feet up on Sunday, which will bring Jayawardene up to open with Kusal Perera. Angelo Perera, touted as an explosive hitter and better suited to Twenty20 format, could also get a look in - in place of Lahiru Thirimanne.
Sri Lankan bowlers, particularly spinner Sachithra Senanayake, performed exceptionally on Friday, and the hosts should continue with largely the same attack except the possibility of Jeevan Mendis giving way to medium-pacer Nuwan Kulasekara.
South Africa, though in high spirits, are well aware of their limited skills against spin bowling. That should keep them on guard as they eye a series-winning lead in Hambantota. Other than Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis remains a mystery for the visitors despite JP Duminy and David Miller showing signs of reading his variations well.
The visitors could also mull a change in their batting order, which could see the axe falling on an out-of-sorts wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock. That should bring an opportunity for either Chris Morris or Farhaan Behardien. But seeing how the bowlers defended a small total to win the first Twenty20, it's difficult to see South Africa replacing any of them.
Sri Lanka: 1 Mahela Jayawardene, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 4 Kumar Sangakkara, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Lahiru Thirimanne/Angelo Perera, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara/Jeevan Mendis, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis
South Africa: 1 Henry Davids, 2 AB de Villiers (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 JP Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 David Wiese, 7 Chris Morris/Farhaan Behardien/Quinton de Kock, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Imran Tahir, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe