Both sides have got their bullying out of the way, having beaten Zimbabwe by 82 runs and 10 wickets respectively, and Sri Lanka and South Africa are now ready to do business. That may sound odd considering that both having both already qualified for the Super Eights but neither have been challenged properly yet and will want to test themselves before a tough next round.
Sri Lanka will be happy with the form of one of their most important bowlers, Ajantha Mendis. His 6 for 8 are figures unlikely to be repeated but Mendis showed he is back in a big way. He deceived the Zimbabwe batsmen with an assortment of carom balls and googlies and while the South African line-up may not be so easily hoodwinked, some of them are known to have a weakness against spin.
South Africa’s middle order remains untested after only Richard Levi and Hashim Amla batted against Zimbabwe and they are yet to face any pressure, a catalyst for some of their worst major tournament showing. Sri Lanka will look to target that area of the opposition’s game because every other part of it seems solid.
South Africa’s seamers were effective on the Hambantota pitch and even though their spinners were not called into action too much, they have enough options available to them to be able to afford one bowler having a bad day. The hosts have similar variation in their ranks, with enough allrounders to have all bases covered and with the advantage of their middle order having had a decent run.
By all accounts the match-ups between the teams pre-empts a much closer contest than the group has seen so far. Even though it will not be decisive in terms of who the team play in the next round it will be important in determining who has more might for the big duels ahead.
After captaining Sri Lanka to series defeats in South Africa last summer, Tillakaratne Dilshan may be pleased to see them on his home turf. Relieved of the armband and with a new opening partner, Dilshan seems to be enjoying his freedom and looked ominous against Zimbabwe. He had the full range on display, including the “Dilscoop” and will want to show South Africa some of what he is capable of but did not manage to do earlier in the year.
Dale Steyn started the tournament with a delivery that measured 140 kph on the speed gun and does not show any sign of slowing down. Although Steyn called the Hambantota conditions “slippery” he acknowledged that it made a welcome change to play on a subcontinental pitch that has something in it for the seamers and will want to exploit that while it lasts.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dilshan Munaweera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis/Akila Dananjaya.
South Africa (probable): 1 Richard Levi, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Albie Morkel 8 Johan Botha 9 Robin Peterson 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Dale Steyn