Pallekele: South Africa's quest of winning a series in Sri Lanka in ten years was dealt with a severe dent after the side suffered a second consecutive defeat in the bilateral series.
AB de Villiers' side now faces an uphill task in order to stay alive in the competition when the two teams square off at Pallekele on Friday. After being completely outplayed in all three departments, De Villiers and Co. would find it difficult to stage a comeback in hot and sultry weather conditions.
There seems to be no end to South Africa's woes. Their premier batsman Hashim Amla, who sat out of the first encounter due to a niggle in his neck, suffered a groin injury while fielding during the second ODI in Colombo. It is highly unlikely South Africa would risk playing Amla considering the seriousness of the injury and the sight of him being helped by team members off the field.
The batting has been sloppy and looked vulnerable without Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. Colin Ingram is most likely to feature back in Amla's absence. The middle order has been far from promising as not a single batsman has managed to cross the 30-run mark. De Villiers himself, along with Faf du Plessis and David Miller, would be keen on making a mark with the bat in the series before it gets too late.
Kumar Sangakkara made every bowler look ineffective with his glorious 169 in the first ODI. Though Morne Morkel and the rest of the attack did well to restrict Sri Lanka to 223 in the second match, that didn't bear the desired result as South Africa fell victim to their biggest nemesis, Duckworth/Lewis. De Villiers would be expecting the same performance from his bowling department that kept Sri Lanka in check with regular strikes. If the visitors manage to stick together as a cohesive unit, they might edge out a much needed win.
Sri Lanka are sitting well with two back to back wins. Dinesh Chandimal, captaining the side in Angelo Mathews' absence, hasn't put a foot wrong in his first series as skipper. The home side's batting has been reasonably well considering Sangakkara's 169 in the first game followed by useful contributions from the rest. Mahela Jayawardene looked good before he threw his wicket away attempting an audacious reverse-sweep and Chandimal himself played a gritty innings of 43 in testing conditions.
Sri Lanka's bowling unit has been impressive. Defending a massive 320 in the first game comprehensively, they mustered another tidy performance in the rain-affected second ODI. Led by Rangana Herath, who has five scalps from the two games played so far, the bowlers seem to have picked up an opening in South Africa's batting vulnerability chipping away with regular blows.
Both team now head to Kandy where the sides haven't had too much experience as of late. Sri Lanka last played here way back in 2001 winning the game by 41 runs against West Indies. From South Africa's point of view, this will practically be their first match here after their previous game in 1993 was washed off due to rain. Not that the it can't be the case this time as there are some spell of rain recorded for the forecast.
Its a do-or-die situation for the visitors and one impactful performance can get them right back in the series. However, with the kind of form they are in, the Islanders seem to be the favourites to clinch the series and extend South Africa's wait for a win in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawradene, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 8 Jehan Mubarak, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Shaminda Eranga, 11 Lasith Malinga
South Africa: 1 Colin Ingram, 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 JP Duminy, 4 AB de Villiers (capt/wk), 5 Faf du Plessis, 6 David Miller, 7 Robin Peterson, 8 Ryan Mclaren, 9 Chris Morris, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Aaron Phangiso