After their shock loss in the Test series, South Africa will be desperate to become a formidable home unit again with another win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI today, 6 March.
One match into the ODI series, the euphoria of the Test triumph is over. South Africa are back in business, dominating at home. Imran Tahir snuffed out batsmen with googlies and drifters. Faf du Plessis made a flawless century. And Quinton de Kock was belligerent at the top. These are trademark signs when things are going well for the home team.
Tahir has since announced that he will retire from ODIs after the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. What does that do to his psyche? We’ve already seen what it has done for Chris Gayle and the West Indies. Will Tahir similarly haunt Sri Lanka for the rest of this series, as Gayle did England?
Sri Lanka’s top order failed in the first ODI. Well-begun is half done, and now more than ever, ahead of a World Cup, the top orders of teams across the world will be under scrutiny. Sri Lanka’s has got the experience – in Upul Tharanga – and the belligerence – in Niroshan Dickwella – but can they bring it together?
Their middle order batsmen made runs without converting them into anything substantial, and the result was a middling total of 231 and 18 unused balls in Johannesburg. It gave the bowlers very little to defend. Even so, they underwhelmed as South Africa wheeled away in the chase, completing it with 67 balls remaining.
The downside of that, from South Africa’s perspective, is that their middle order went untested. Barring du Plessis and David Miller, it lacks experience, and now is the time, before the World Cup begins, for those players to be thrown into the deep end. Can Sri Lanka give them that sort of competition?
South Africa managed quite brilliantly without Dale Steyn in their attack in the first ODI, with debutant Anrich Nortje able to rein in Sri Lanka. Steyn’s return, if and when it happens, will only add more teeth to an already potent attack. Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Tahir already pose enough problems for Sri Lanka to deal with.