The ICC Cricket World Cup heads to Delhi for the first time in the second leg of the double header in the tournament on Saturday for the clash between potential dark horses South Africa and Sri Lanka, who get their campaigns underway here.
South Africa have been playing some good cricket heading into this tournament and confidence is high around them going into it. Sri Lanka saw a lengthy winning run ended in the Asia Cup final and need to be respected.
When it comes to tournament cricket it isn’t immediately hard to have faith in South Africa given their ridiculous history in it, especially in this one in particular, but there is no denying that they come into this competition in a good place. Unfortunately some good recent form has probably added pressure onto their shoulders and that is never necessarily a good thing with this team through the years. Even in the T20 World Cup last year their choking came back to haunt them.
The positive thing for South Africa is in their last series against Australia they were scoring big runs. That has often been the question mark over this team because they usually lack batting depth but they piled up over 400 in one game against the Aussies and a number of 300+ scores so if that unit can keep on going that will take the pressure off the bowlers, which will be important because they are without a key bowler in Anrich Nortje.
Despite a whole host of injuries which have restricted them in recent times, Sri Lanka arrive at this tournament as the Asia Cup finalists. They will want to forget the final because it did not go to plan but it would have served as a reminder, should they have needed it, that when they are not right on their game it can all go disastrously wrong. They will be looking to make sure that in none of their nine games in this tournament do they come off the top of their game.
There is no doubt that Sri Lanka have not been helped by injuries and that is going to be the case in this encounter as well so we do need to cut them some slack and take the expectation level down a notch. The majority of those injuries come in the bowling department so they are going to need their batters to step up and be counted, although what their confidence is like after that Asia Cup final remains to be seen.
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South Africa look like they have to decide on the last cog in their line up and whether that is Andile Phehlukwayo or the extra spinner. If it is the latter then Tabraiz Shamsi will be the one given the start here.
Maheesh Theekshana has finally arrived to join up with the Sri Lanka squad after a hamstring injury but he has not been cleared to play in this match. He will join the likes of Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera in the stands.
This Delhi venue is not traditionally a high scoring ground and given the struggles that Sri Lanka are having with the bat in terms of power hitters down the order I’m not convinced that is going to change too much here. There have been 26 ODIs on this ground and only two scores have been over 300. One of those was in the last World Cup in India in 2011 when West Indies plundered runs against a Netherlands attack which was probably below the level needed at the time.
That suggests we are not going to score a run fest in this match and actually the opening two matches of the tournament would suggest that as well because we haven’t had the absolute roads we were expecting, at least in the first innings anyway. South Africa scored big at home last month but whether they can smoke it around in Indian conditions remains to be seen while Sri Lanka are not fully of big boundary hitters by any means. I would imagine there will be a lot of spin on show here which can keep the boundary count down too. The line is up at 62.5 for this one and that feels too high to me.
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