The quarter finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 are now knocking at our doors. The 1st of the quarter finals – South Africa vs Sri Lanka, is set to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, March 18. Both teams have had their fair shares of trials and tribulations in the group stages, and the upcoming clash presents both sides with a chance to formally establish their claims on the title.
South Africa – Shaken after defeats to India and Pakistan
AB de Villiers and his troops came into the World Cup, riding high on hopes and expectations. However, the title favourites failed to live up to their exalted status during the group stage matches. Even though the Proteas plundered runs at will against West Indies, Zimbabwe, UAE and Ireland, they failed to get going against India and Pakistan. A 130 run loss to India and a surprising 29 run defeat to Pakistan have hurt them badly in their campaign so far.
Openers and middle order yet to hit top gear
The one big issue that has affected South Africa’s chances so far is Quinton de Kock’s inability to find form at the top of the order. The opener has been completely out of sorts, and has registered a top of score of only 26 so far. Hashim Amla, his opening partner, has been on and off the radar. While he appeared to be in red hot form against West Indies and Ireland, Amla failed to click when it mattered the most – against India and Pakistan. Faf du Plessis, Rilee Roussouw and David Miller too have been rather inconsistent so far.
AB de Villiers has been the standout performer for South Africa in the tournament. The skipper has carried the baton of his team’s batting, entirely by himself, but has failed to find support from anyone else on a consistent basis. However, for the Proteas to entertain hopes of making progress at the World Cup, they must quickly find some lasting support for de Villiers in the batting department. India and Pakistan took full advantage of this weakness in the South African batting and one can expect the wily Sri Lankan bowlers to do the same.
Steyn, Morkel not in the best rhythm
The intimidating bowling line up of the Proteas has failed to deliver in this tournament so far. The on-field performances of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel haven’t been that impressive, for players of their stature. It was the failure of the Steyn-Morkel combo that was brought into the open by India at Melbourne, a few weeks ago. Even when the bowlers managed to pull their socks up, the batsmen failed to reciprocate (as in the game against Pakistan). The likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews can turn out to be sure-shot threats for South Africa if their bowlers fail to fire once again.
Sri Lanka – Riding high on Sangakkara and Dilshan’s performances
Heavily criticized for their overseas performances prior to the World Cup, the men from Sri Lanka responded strongly during the group stages. And much of the credit for Sri Lanka’s turnaround goes to the endeavours of veteran batsman Kumar Sangakkara. Sanga has hit a purple patch just when it mattered the most for his team. And four consecutive World Cup centuries have helped transform Sri Lanka’s fortunes so far. A demoralized South African bowling attack shall present him with the perfect opportunity to extend this golden run. Tillakaratne Dilshan has been Sangakkara’s able deputy during the group stages. And it has been primarily due to Dilshan and Sangakkara that Sri Lanka have scored big runs against England, Bangladesh and Australia (in a lost cause).
Bowling worries exist despite Malinga’s comeback
Lasith Malinga’s injury ahead of the World Cup was perhaps the biggest blow to the island nation’s hopes and chances of going the distance. However, his slow recovery has had a discernible effect on the team’s performances. Malinga hit top gear against Scotland, and was able to stifle Australia’s charge to some extent in a very high scoring game at Syndey. The Lankans, however, cannot afford to rely solely on Malinga to contain the powerful South African batting line up. Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews need to step up to the mark, so as to boost their team’s chances in the South Africa vs Sri Lanka encounter.
Match Facts – South Africa vs Sri Lanka
Venue – Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia
Start time – 14:30 (local time), 09:00 (IST)