World Cup qualification in focus as Sri Lanka take on South Africa

COLOMBO (BBC): On the surface, these are two teams short of ODI Super League points. Sri Lanka are down at 11th on the table, with only two wins from 11 completed matches. South Africa are better placed, at 10th, with two wins from five completed games. More importantly, though, both are teams who have experienced substantial upheaval over the last year, and are desperately searching for a fresh identity.
For South Africa, the fallout from the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings has been profound. Some of the most damning revelations have involved coach Mark Boucher – who is with the team in Colombo. He has said that he “deeply regrets” his actions during those years, but as he is now in charge of a side that is led by a black African – Temba Bavuma – it is likely that serious soul-searching and discussions will have had to have happened within the team, ahead of this series. How all this will affect South Africa’s on-field performances, we will have to wait to find out. They are, however, coming from a drawn series, in which they lost a match to Ireland.
Sri Lanka’s dysfunction is more straightforward in a way. They’re playing under their third limited-overs captain this year, in Dasun Shanaka. They are at serious risk of having to qualify for the 2023 World Cup, given their woeful ODI performances in the first seven months of 2021. And although their bowling is in decent shape, with Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera having been excellent during India’s tour, their top order remains brittle.
Shanaka, who himself comes into the series with excellent limited-overs form following his exploits in a domestic T20 competition, is yet to put his stamp on this team. Given the shelf-life of Sri Lanka’s limited-overs captains recently, a series win here will go some distance to shoring up his leadership.
On the strategy front, it seems as if Sri Lanka will use their traditional weapon against South Africa: spin. There are no fewer than five frontline spinners in the squad, as well as two offspin-bowling allrounders.