South Africa is the strong favourite to win their clash against Sri Lanka.
Frankly, I can’t understand why. Not only have Sri Lanka performed well throughout the tournament, this will be the closest of the four quarter finals.
Rangana Herath and Angelo Mathews are both expected to be fit. Herath is especially key despite a good balance of left-handers in the South Africa line-up.
Sydney didn’t spin as expected in their match against Australia, but that may be down to the quality of spin than anything else.
This is very much the weakest Sri Lankan attack in recent years. Lasith Malinga is not what he used to be and if Herath doesn’t recover it would be only up to South African nerves or failings to lose this one.
Would South Africa drop Quinton? Would AB de Villiers actually keep wickets? AB has so far rejected this but this is a crunch situation and their options are limited with Wayne Parnell, Quinton de Kock both not firing yet.
Can one expect Duminy to bowl 10 overs of spin in Sydney? Would they include Farhaan Behardien over de Kock? Duminy along with Bahardien for the fifth bowler is something I can live with at Sydney.
Would they prefer Kyle Abbott over Vernon Philander or can they play both? Sydney proved to a batting beauty in the matches prior and relying on Bahardien or out-of-touch De Kock to adding batting depth doesn’t seem right over adding cover in the bowling department.
I think the best 11 has to have AB as keeper and Abbott, with Rilee Rossouw opening with Hashim Amla. I would love to see both Abbott and Philander playing along with Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Imran Tahir. Do I expect this to happen? No, but the lack of batting and bowling depth has left not much room.
Aaron Phangiso, Parnell and to an extent Bahardien are true passengers in this team. In the earlier matches, it was the introduction of the fifth and sixth bowler which eased the pressure on the batting sides. So playing five bowlers could be a worth gamble on a batting strip.
The key battles
1. Can Steyn deliver? So far a pretty he has had nothing better than a wicket per match. Do I expect him to? I am inclined to believe not.
2. Can Amla deliver a platform in a crunch match? As much is made of ABDs ability and while he is the bedrock of South Africa’s batting, I think it is Amla whose fortunes would decide their fate. Without a really solid start, I can’t possibly back them while chasing.
3. Can Sri Lanka put up a fairly decent bowling performance? In the present squad, even South Africa shouldn’t mind facing their spinners. If history is any indication Sri Lanka find a way and with this being the last world-cup of their stalwarts, I am expecting nothing less.
Unlike the South Africa counterparts, they have a lot of big match experience.
4. South Africa’s off the boil bowling attack will come up against some Sri Lankan stalwarts. I think they will want to perform in their last ever world cup.
5. Herath versus ABD: Can the others build on the pressure from the other end?
Whoever wins the toss will bat first because South Africa has a 3-10 record chasing down targets in excess of 240 since the last world cup. I think the toss could be crucial to South Africa’s fortunes.