SL vs. SA – ODI Series Preview (and 1st ODI team selection)

South Africa are back in action this week with their limited overs tour of Sri Lanka.

The ODI series kicks off on Thursday and South Africa can use this short 3-match series to give fringe players an opportunity as several key members of the squad; Quinton de Kock, Lungi Ngidi and David Miller are missing from this series.

Thankfully for South Africa, even though they are missing the experienced duo of de Kock and Miller, they do (thankfully I might add) have a vital cog in their squad, in Rassie van der Dussen, who after 26 ODIs, averages a scintillating 75 at a strike-rate of 86. Rassie provides the same role that Hashim Amla did, and we all know how important Amla was to the ODI side. Rassie’s role is to be the rock of the innings, around which the other, more aggressive players (if the Proteas can identify such players) can bat around, and it’s something he excels at but gets an unfair amount of criticism for.

South Africa need to identify big hitters and strong finishers, someone in the mold of JP Duminy, who can lay a platform in the early stages of the innings and then has the ability to switch gears and attack towards the end of the innings. South Africa have tried some candidates in this position, Heinrich Klaasen the one that sticks out, but he has not had a great run in ODIs in 2021, and for this reason, he does not make my team for the first ODI.

In all honestly, the ODI side does look quite weak without some of the key players, a notable omission being former captain, Faf du Plessis, who strangely yet again, has been left out of another Proteas limited overs squad, with view to give “experience of subcontinent conditions to the group of players who have represented South Africa in recent series.” – Victor Mpitsang, convenor of selectors is quoted as saying. However, with other experienced players like de Kock and Miller missing, and very little experience in the batting department as a result, the inclusion of Faf would have been a great benefit to the team as a whole, including to the group of players that Mpitsang is referring to.

It is also no secret how much of an impact player de Kock is. We’ve seen just how differently South Africa perform when he is in the side compared to when he’s not. However, with the next ODI World Cup in less than 18 months’ time, now is the time to give other players a real opportunity and a chance to gain some experience. Players like Kyle Verreynne for example, who hasn’t been given a fair run in the side but has shown incredible promise and potential already. Verreynne therefore makes my team for the first ODI.

With regular opener, Quinton missing, captain, Temba Bavuma and Janneman Malan would be my openers. We never really have to worry about South Africa’s bowling attack, who generally pick themselves, but I would like to give Keshav Maharaj a run in the ODI side, especially in this series, with the next ODI World Cup in the subcontinent.

South Africa’s last ODI series, against Ireland was a rude awakening, having drawn the 3-match series 1-1. Complacency should never creep into a professional athlete’s game, and sadly, this is what happened in Ireland – just rocking up and expecting to win without putting in the performances to get to that outcome. It’s a lesson they keep having to be reminded of and hopefully it’s one that has finally stuck.

They did however win their last ODI series in Sri Lanka, back in 2018, but this was with a very different, and experienced side, including the likes of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis.

Dwaine Pretorius is back in the Proteas ODI squad and thus provides the team with an extra all-rounder option, along with Andile Phehlukwayo, who did start to find his groove with the ball in their last ODI series as he was South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in that series. Given that Pretorius has not played for a significant amount of time, Phehlukwayo would be my choice for the all-rounder spot in the first ODI, with view to give Pretorius some game time throughout the tour.

It is no secret the troubles Sri Lanka cricket has been in over the last few months, both on and off the field, something South Africa are all too familiar with, but they cannot be considered a non-threat, especially when playing at home, South Africa will do well to remember this and not to underestimate them.

Sri Lanka also have some exciting players, including youngster Avishka Fernando and limited overs captain, Dasun Shanaka, who enjoyed a personally good tour of England, despite the team having a simply torrid tour. Unfortunately for the home side however, uncertainty remains on the availability of highly experienced campaigner Kusal Perera, who contracted Covid before the series began.

With both teams struggling for form in the shorter format and South Africa missing key players, this should give a good indication of back-up players (for example, Keshav Maharaj), and should be a good and challenging series, and if South Africa want to be considered a real competitor at the next ODI World Cup, they need to start winning in difficult and unfamiliar conditions on a consistent basis.

The R. Premadasa Stadium is a happy hunting ground for Sri Lanka in ODI cricket, as they have only lost twice at this ground, both times to India recently, in their last 8 games. The weather might play a factor during the first ODI, with rain predicted but this will hopefully not cause any significant disruption to the game.

The first ODI is on Thursday morning, at 11.30am, SA time, live on SuperSport.



Posted in The Popping Crease.