South Africa must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when the Quinton de Kock row was resolved. His return will strengthen the wicketkeeping and help South Africa make good use of the powerplay. So Sri Lanka face a full-strength South Africa in the Group 1 game of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup on Saturday.
That’s not great news for the islanders ahead of the Sharjah fixture since the Proteas paced themselves well in the victory over the West Indies on Tuesday, even without De Kock. Although skipper Temba Bavuma must be delighted to have his opening partner back, it presents a selection dilemma. De Kock’s replacement Reeza Hendricks played well before Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram steered South Africa to victory. So who will make way for De Kock?
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The win over the Caribbeans helped South Africa bounce back from the loss to Australia. It also showed that their bowlers are coming to grips with the slow pitches in the UAE. Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi have shouldered the spinning duties with precision, both in the powerplay and the middle overs. Speedsters Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada have stuck to their tasks without being expensive.
The way South Africa chased the West Indian target should be ominous for the Sri Lankans, who were outplayed by Australia on Thursday. Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekhana came away with their reputations and figures intact, but the rest of the Sri Lankan bowlers suffered at the hands of David Warner and Aaron Finch. The pace attack’s effectiveness must be a worry for captain Dasun Shanaka going into the game against South Africa.
The Sri Lankan batting has been good, especially with Kushal Perera back among the runs. And that meant a good score in the powerplay. Charith Asalanka has been a standout performer, steering the Sri Lankans through treacherous waters before Bhanuka Rajapaksa arrives to provide additional thrust. That helped in chasing down Bangladesh’s score, but only managed a par score against the Australians. They have to do better than that against the South Africans.
So who will win? South Africa should, if they continue in the same vein. But don’t write off the Sri Lankans. They have the spinners and batsmen to upset fancied teams. An exciting match awaits.