Friday, February 10
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)
Sri Lanka trail 4-0, have not yet batted out 50 overs in the series, and continue to lack menace with the ball, but around Upul Tharanga’s sleek 119 at Newlands, a little hope has built. The hope is not necessarily that Sri Lanka can prevent a whitewash – although that is their immediate concern. The larger expectation is that perhaps there are the makings of a competitive top order in this present unit. Niroshan Dickwella’s fifties through the course of the limited-overs matches have suggested he can play a strong role in Sri Lanka’s future short-format sides. The quality of Tharanga’s 14th hundred – his first since 2013 – has also led some to believe he is on the verge of a renaissance in his own game.
Despite this, South Africa have still been completely dominant, and have not really looked like losing at any point in the series. Faf du Plessis has been their batting lynchpin, with scores of 55 not out, 105 and a career-best 185. Imran Tahir has held the bowling together while the seamers rotate around him. Even after being cracked for 51 off his first five overs on Tuesday, Tahir took 2 for 25 in his second five, and helped clinch the match.
Around these two have been a cast of outstanding players who have taken each game by the collar at various moments and kept South Africa spikes on Sri Lanka throats. The top four have all scored half-centuries in the series. The bowlers have not been quite as consistent, but almost always recovered well from their bad spells.
AB de Villiers has said it publicly: South Africa will be disappointed with anything less than 5-0.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WWWWW
Sri Lanka: LLLLW
In the spotlight
At 24, Quinton de Kock is already one of the premier batsmen in the game, so his runs against Sri Lanka have come as no surprise. The quality of his wicketkeeping, however, has. In the Tests de Kock completed several athletic catches behind the wicket, but in ODIs he has shown off improvements in his keeping to spin as well. The stumping of Dhananjaya de Silva in Durban and the leaping, one-handed grab to dismiss Sachith Pathirana in Cape Town were dismissals any keeper would be happy to have on their resume.
Kusal Mendis has been one of Sri Lanka’s best batsmen of the tour but, by his own high standards, Mendis will feel he should have scored more than two fifties in South Africa. It has been the line outside off stump that has troubled him this series, with bowlers having learned to target him there at the beginning of his innings. Though he has only recently turned 22, Sri Lanka’s selectors have insisted on playing him in all three formats. He doesn’t have the luxury of time away from top level cricket to fix weaknesses in his game, and must instead find solutions on his feet, on the move.
South Africa are unlikely to play two spinners at Centurion. Andile Phehlukwayo is in line for a recall, and will likely replace Tabraiz Shamsi.
South Africa: (possible) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Dwayne Pretorius, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir
It is possible Dhananjaya de Silva could be omitted for the final ODI, given his modest returns right through the tour. Lahiru Kumara may also exit the side after conceding 10.42 runs an over on Tuesday
Sri Lanka:(possible) 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Upul Tharanga (capt), 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Sandun Weerakkody , 5 Dhananjaya de Silva/Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Sachith Pathirana, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Lahiru Madushanka, 10 Suranga Lakmal, 11 Lakshan Sandakan
Pitch and conditions
Centurion is typically a high-scoring venue, with 300 often on the cards in the first innings. There is a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Stats and trivia
- South Africa have now won 10 successive ODIs, and their last 13 at home.
- Upul Tharanga’s 14 ODI hundreds put him fifth on Sri Lanka’s list of century-makers, behind Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene.
- Imran Tahir has only gone wicketless once in his 15 most recent ODIs. He has taken 34 wickets at an average of 18.55 in that time.
“The problem I see here is not lack of talent but their inability to adjust quickly to situations and handle the pressure. You can’t play cricket if you can’t absorb pressure.”
Sri Lanka chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya on Sri Lanka’s failures on tour
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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