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The top ranked team in the world, South Africa will take on seventh ranked Sri Lanka in their opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy in The Oval on Saturday. South Africa are coming into the tournament after losing 2-1 to England in a three match one-day series. Their bowling struggled during the England series with top bowlers, Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir going for plenty in the first two one-day internationals. Rabada finally made a comeback in the last match, picking up four wickets for 39 runs in his nine over spell.
South Africa’s batting looks solid as they include a deadly combination of aggressiveness, stability and power-hitters. The opening duo, Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock have provided solid starts in the previous series with two fifty plus partnerships in three matches against England. The middle order looks more stable with AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and David Miller, who have capability to dismantle any bowling attack of their day.
De Villiers scored 124 runs in the previous series against England and looks in good touch after a forgettable IPL season. Miller scored a blistering 71 run knock in the second match.
Sri Lanka on the other hand, head into the tournament as underdogs after struggling in recent months, mainly in their bowling department due to the absence of Lasith Malinga, who hasn’t played one-day cricket since November 2015. But his return would be a massive boost for the young Lankan side. Sri Lanka’s form ahead of the Champions Trophy hasn’t been impressive as they lost their warm-up matches against New Zealand and Australia.
Their batting has clicked in the two practice games, as they scored 318 against Australia and a mammoth 356 against the Kiwis. Captain Angelo Mathews (95) and Asela Gunaratne (70) batted to perfection against Australia, sending a warning to other teams in the tournament. In the second match against New Zealand, Upul Tharanga scored a century and Kusal Perera and Dinesh Chandimal also completed their half-centuries.
But the Island nation need to sort out their bowling problems where Suranga Lakmal, Seekkuge Prasanna and Lakshan Sandakan are proving to be ineffective at the moment. A lot will depend upon Angelo Mathews, but he could miss the game. Star bowler Lasith Malinga need to step up if Sri Lanka need to control runs. Not to be forgotten, South Africa thrashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in their series in January this year.