Already assured of their places in the Super Eight stage of the ICC World Twenty20, both Sri Lanka and South Africa would be eyeing a win to top their pool when they play against each other in the marquee Group C clash at Hambantota on Saturday.
Both hosts Sri Lanka and South Africa had easy outings in their openers against Zimbabwe, who became the first team to crash out of the event with two consecutive losses.
While Sri Lanka mauled Zimbabwe by 82 runs, South Africa hammered Brendan Taylor’s men by 10 wickets.
Therefore, there will be very little to choose between the two sides ahead of the cracking contest at the Mahinda Rajapaksa stadium, which will determine the group winners going into the business end of the tournament.
The Lankans will be banking heavily on home advantage tomorrow to give them the edge over perennial under-achievers South Africa, who were ruthless against the Zimbabweans.
Most of the Lankan batsmen looked in good shape and got starts against Zimbabwe.
But come Saturday, the scenraio will be different as in South Africa they face a potent bowling attack which has the capability of dismantling any batting line-up.
In such a case, the onus would be on the experienced trio of captain Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan to deliver the goods with the bat.
Even though Dilshan Munaweera looked decent with the bat against Zimbabwe, one expects Dinesh Chandimal to replace him against South Africa, which means Jayawardene will have to open the innings along with Tillakaratne Dilshan.
In Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera, the Lankans have enough fire power in their lower middle-order.
Sri Lanka bowling too looked sharp against Zimbabwe the other day. While Lasith Malinga will speahead the pace battery in the company of Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis and Mathews will don the all-rounders role in the set-up.
But for the hosts, the trump card would be mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, who returned to form in style with world record figures of six for eight against Zimbabwe.
South Africa, on the other hand, produced a clinical performance against Zimbabwe yesterday, and one can expect the same intensity from AB de Villiers’ men against the Lankans tomorrow.
Opening their campaign in the tournament on Thursday, South Africa first restricted Zimbabwe to 93 for eight and then piled up the runs without breaking a sweat with 10 wickets in hand.
Veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis stole the show with the ball for South Africa picking up four wickets for 15 runs, while Morne Morkel (2 for 16) came up with a lethal opening spell to dismantle the Zimbabweans.
South Africa batting line-up, however, remains untested as Richard Levi and Hashim Amla chased down the paltry Zimbabwe total with consummate ease. Levi smashed his way to a 44-ball unbeaten 50 Hashim Amla remained not out on 32 from 33 balls as South Africa cruised home by 10 wickets.
But with the likes of Kallis, de Villiers, JP Duminy, Albie Morkel and Robin Peterson in the ranks, South Africa boats of a formidable batting line-up. (PTI)
Sri Lanka (probable): Dilshan Munaweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga
South Africa (probable): Richard Levi, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (c&wk), Jean-Paul Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel, Johan Botha, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel
Time: 15.30 local (15.30 IST)