While Sri Lanka scampered through the group stages with their superb batting display, the Proteas’ one-man army AB de Villiers played his part for the side reaching the knockouts once again.
Mathews: It’s going to be a tough game
The two teams blew hot and cold in the first round. South Africa stumbled against India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka lost to the two top teams of their pool – Australia and New Zealand. Ahead of the high-voltage clash, we take a look at their chances of making into the last-four.
Murali: Win toss, forget AB
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka have always managed to eke out something or the other when they are put in a pressure situation. Apart from lifting the trophy in 1996, they have reached the finals of the tournament in 2007 and 2011; under extreme pressure they know how to keep calm and win it for their team.
The top order is in fine nick. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne have given Sri Lanka good starts. Both average 79 and 52 respectively. Mahela Jayawardene has struggled so far, but not to forget that he has a ton to his name against Afghanistan earlier in the tournament and he’s just a couple of shots away from regaining form.
Kumar Sangakkra. Enough said.
The southpaw is unstoppable at the moment with four back-to-back centuries. The Sri Lankan top-three are in red-hot form, and the team has enough depth to seamlessly change gears towards the fag end of the innings.
Lasith Malinga is slowly and steadily picking up his form. After a disastrous start to the tournament against hosts New Zealand, he has picked up 11 wickets. He bowled well against Australia with figures of 2/52 when his fellow bowlers conceded a 350-plus total. His expertise will be the key to put brakes on free-flowing Proteas. When the last time these two teams played in a World Cup match, Malinga wreaked havoc, but it was in 2007.
Sri Lanka’s bowling has been in shambles throughout the tournament. The Lions hardly boast of any achievement when it comes to the pace attack. The next best after Malinga’s 11 wickets is Suranga Lakmal with 7 wickets. Nuwan Kulasekara didn’t play enough and has 4 wickets to his name while specialist spinner Rangana Herath and handy Thisara Perera have accounted for 3 and 6 wickets respectively.
Injuries have hampered Sri Lanka’s game plan. As of now, skipper Mathews is still not sure whether he will play as he had to abandon his innings against Scotland last week because of an injury. Sri Lanka have already lost the service of Chandimal due to an injury.
South Africa: On paper, and the build-up form, they looked the team to beat and were the favourites for the tournament. However, their journey so far has been an erratic affair. Have they preserved their best for the knockouts?
AB de Villiers: We won’t choke
AB de Villiers. The name is enough. So far, he has single-handedly powered the Proteas into the quarters. Both as skipper and batsman, he has played a monumental role to steer them out of a depressing defeat against India with a solid knock against the West Indies. AB is the highest run-getter among his teammates with 417 runs. His fielding skills are amazing and Sri Lanka need to keep an eye on him before sneaking quick singles.
Pace: Unlike Sri Lanka, South Africa’s bowling has been on target, mostly. After initial stutter against Zimbabwe and India, the Proteas have kept the opposition under check. Their front-line bowlers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott have accounted for 30 scalps. South Africa have total domination over Lanka when it comes to pace bowling.
Coach: We want to avoid choking
Imran Tahir too has been in top form. He is the second highest wicket-taker in the South African ranks with 11 wickets at an average of 23. Sri Lankans are good players of spin, but Tahir had performed well against them when the last time these two teams met in 2014. The pitch at SCG will be dry and with Herath still not confirmed to play, Tahir’s presence can swing the pendulum South Africa’s way.
Choker’s Tag: South Africa need to overcome their mental barrier. The fear of knockouts might not be deeply instilled in the current set of players, but they surely know what pressure of knockouts has done to the South African team over the years. Be it in 1999, 2007 or 2011, the Proteas looked set to sail only to falter at the decisive juncture.
Quinton de Kock’s nightmare doesn’t seem to end. With just 53 runs in 6 innings, he has been more of a burden to the team. His poor form has been the major reason for South Africa getting off to bad starts. In a pressure situation, that’s the last thing the Proteas would like to have.
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