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Sri Lanka vs South Africa 1st ODI Preview

Written by Rick John Henry for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Sri Lanka vs South Africa | Sunday 06 July | Colombo | 06:15

The Proteas under Amla begin a new era in their history amid the harsh conditions of Sri Lanka. South Africa’s previous forays into the subcontinental nation have been largely unsuccessful and the oppressive heat coupled with the abrasive surfaces will provide a stern test to the fresh squad. It’s a short tour, although high-flying Sri Lanka will be intent on ensuring it is not a sweet one. 2014 has proved a fairytale year in the timeline of Sri Lankan cricket; they have yet to drop a series of any sort, they’ve won the Asia Cup, World T20 and picked up an historic Test series victory in England merely a week ago. The current buzz in the Sri Lankan dressing room will only spur the hosts forward, while the Proteas will be more concerned with creating a culture of their own.

To Win 
Sri Lanka 15/20
Tie 35/1
South Africa 11/10

Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankans are tough to beat on home soil at the best of times. Now exuding a tremendous confidence following an almost flawless six months, their return to parts familiar should only serve to embellish the belief and togetherness within the camp. Although they will be under pressure from high public expectations and will need to adjust their game in the aftermath of the England tour, Sri Lanka have never really looked as powerful a nation across the board as they do now. The ODI series will be first on their list of achievements, an interesting barometer considering the World Cup next year. They will fondly turn their attention to last year’s tour, where the Proteas bundled the ODI series 4-1 at the hands of the Sri Lankan spin contingent. The limited overs series should also precipitate a recall to action for Lasith Malinga, the not-so-secret weapon that has been a key factor in Sri Lanka’s meteoric rise. The slinging action, changes of pace, yorkers and knuckle-balls will necessitate that the Proteas seek runs elsewhere.

Easier said than done. Nuwan Kulasekara bowls a tight line and bends the ball both ways, though how much assistance his will find for his swing antics in his own country remains a mystery. Senanayake, bowling action pending, should find multiple ways to bother the South African batsmen on the rough pitches. The Proteas have played Ajantha Mendis better than most but he remains a threat, while Angelo Mathews is quietly economical. In fact, Mathews has taken to the captaincy role like Inzamam to hamburgers, developing into a competent leader. His form with the bat has been at the forefront of the Sri Lankan resurgence and with much-vaunted experienced campaigners Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene providing the backbone of the innings, the hosts look a balanced and settled outfit.

South Africa
Proteas coach Russell Domingo has been vocal in his eagerness for the new era of South African cricket to begin. His tenure has been punctuated by transition, his quiet, behind-the-scenes nature making him seem ill equipped for the role. It still remains to be seen whether Domingo has what it takes to guide South Africa through this trying period but he does seem to have very clear ideas about the direction he wants the team to take. This begins with the ODI series, but South Africa have been starved of cricket in the format since December 2013. However, been October and December the Proteas won seven of their ten completed matches and in 2014 made the semi-finals of the World T20. They are a limited overs side still gaining confidence but their history in Sri Lanka does not bode well.

Sri Lanka was the setting for the Proteas’ last Test series loss away from home, back in 2006. They have only won two of the last sixteen ODIs played in Sri Lanka and as mentioned, succumbed 4-1 on their tour last year. In fact, Sri Lanka is probably the place that South Africa has struggled the most since readmission and will be interesting in judging how far the side has come since last year, and going forward to the World Cup. The 4-1 series result was probably not an accurate reflection of the abilities of the South African side, which was lacking Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis, a stable opening partnership, Hashim Amla (most of the time) and a settled captain. On the other hand, it was a tour riddled with excuses from AB de Villiers, FAF du Plessis and Farhaan Behardien were in woeful form while discipline among the bowlers was at an all-time low; 55 wides in five matches were simply unacceptable.

The R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo plays host to the opening one-dayer and Sri Lanka have a strong record at the ground, especially against the Proteas. Last year, Sri Lanka won all three ODIs played at the ground between the two countries and South Africa will need to peer all the way back to 1993 for the their last ODI victory in Colombo against the hosts. Unfortunately there is a 90% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday, but weather reports do change frequently.

VERDICT: Sri Lanka 15/20
The Proteas arrive with a more settled side than they did on last year’s tour but I can’t say I see things turning out all that differently. Sri Lanka have established themselves in world cricket over the past year and are probably the form side to beat in limited overs competitions. The Proteas will fight admirably but ultimately be choked in scoring by bounce and turn on the abrasive Sri Lankan surface.

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