Welcome to the sixth instalment of my World Cup preview. In this preview and tomorrow’s I will finish off my team-by-team previews by looking at the top four teams in the World Cup. Today I look at Sri Lanka and South Africa, two of the best one day sides in the world.
Sri Lanka (Group A)
Fixtures: vs New Zealand, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, vs Afghanistan, University Oval, Dunedin, vs Bangladesh, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs England, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, vs Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, vs Scotland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart.
Squad: Angelo Mathews (c), Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillikaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Dimuth Karunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne.
Sri Lanka are a very strong side in limited overs cricket, and they should be able to mount a charge for the title. Angelo Mathews has developed into an all-rounder whose batting is good enough to grant him selection to any side in the world, and Kumar Sangakkara is a class performer who can also keep. The experienced Mahela Jayawardene can combine well with Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal in the middle-order, while Tillikaratne Dilshan and Dimuth Karunaratne should provide a great start to the innings. Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera lead the bowling attack, and Sri Lanka should be able to keep the runs down when in the field, a quality which could win them plenty of matches.
Finding another bowler could prove difficult, however, as while Mathews can bowl they will want another alternative. This will most likely be Sachithra Senanayake and his off-spin, but the other issue is the fitness of Malinga. He is injured, and he may well miss parts of the tournament. Dushmantha Chameera and Suranga Lakmal will have to fill the hole he leaves, and this is a fairly big hole. If Malinga is completely ruled out of the tournament it could become even more of an issue for the Sri Lankans, especially as Mathews would be deprived of his main strike bowler. Death bowling could also prove an issue, as Malinga is definitely their best at this stage of the innings, but the batting is complete and the bowling is still fairly strong.
South Africa (Group B)
Fixtures: vs Zimbabwe, Seddon Park, Hamilton, vs India, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs West Indies, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, vs Ireland, Manuka Oval, Canberra, vs Pakistan, Eden Park, Auckland, vs UAE, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington.
Squad: AB de Villiers (c/wk), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir.
South Africa have been one of the best teams in the world for years, and they have reacted very well to the retirements of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, who were mainstays of their team for years. The one-day side has stayed strong, and in Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock they have the best ODI opening partnership in the world, and AB de Villiers recently smashed the record for the fastest ODI century with an innings of 149 off 44 balls. David Miller, de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy form the backbone of the middle order. It appears likely that de Villiers will keep in de Kock’s absence and youngster Rilee Rossouw will open the batting. In Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel the Proteas boast a formidable pace attack.
While the pace attack is very strong there are a couple of very important issues they need to solve before the World Cup. The South Africans lack a first choice spinner, and neither Imran Tahir or Aaron Phangiso have mounted a particularly compelling case for selection. The other choice is to pick Kyle Abbott and play five pacemen, but that would leave an attack without variety. The other worry is the fifth bowler. A year ago Ryan McLaren looked like the answer, but now Wayne Parnell and Farhaan Behardien will look to fill this role. Behardien, however, can only be described as a part-timer, and he is not a penetrating bowler. It could be a real worry, but if the South Africans can make the runs to protect their bowling attack they will do very well in this tournament.
Tomorrow: I look at the top 2 ranked one day sides in the world when I preview India and Australia.