• First step on World Cup journey

    We preview the first ODI between the Proteas and Sri Lanka, taking place at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Sunday 6 July from 6:15am SA time.

    The last time the Proteas played an ODI series in Sri Lanka was almost exactly a year ago, but they’ll be hoping the result this time around is different.

    In 2013 they were lucky to get their solitary win, being thoroughly outplayed during a 4-1 series defeat that came hot on the heels of a disappointing Champions Trophy campaign. This time they come in a cold side, not having played an ODI since December 2013. With the 2015 World Cup just 24 games away, the countdown in the Proteas dressing room will have begun. ODI results have been maddeningly inconsistent in recent years, and Russell Domingo will want to stop that trend as soon as possible, and settle on a winning combination in anticipation of the showpiece event.

    Choosing a side for this game shouldn’t be difficult. Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock will open, Jacques Kallis will be at No 3, with AB de Villiers expected to come in at No 4, and JP Duminy, David Miller and Faf du Plessis completing the middle order. For the bowlers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel should be the pacemen, with Vernon Philander, Ryan McLaren or Wayne Parnell filling the all-rounder slot. That leaves the spinner, with Imran Tahir most likely to make the matchday XI. If Tahir can exploit the turn on these pitches he will be dangerous, and his combination with the part-time off-spin of Duminy will be crucial.

    Those players will come up against a Sri Lankan side brimming with confidence after T20I, ODI, and Test series wins in England, and you can expect them to come at the Proteas hard from ball one. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are always dangerous with the bat, and Tillekaratne Dilshan was the side’s top scorer in the series against England. From the bowlers, Lasith Malinga has been on form, with Sachithra Senanayake also capturing the headlines in England.

    In terms of players to look out for, keep an eye on Jacques Kallis, who is expected to play a big role in the ODI side in the lead-up to the World Cup, which will be his international cricketing swansong. His form has been patchy of late, and given his light workload in the IPL, and general lack of match practice in 2014, he will be rusty. For Sri Lanka, Lasith Malinga remains the greatest threat. He was named Man of the Series in the ODIs against England, and he has always troubled the Proteas batsmen with his slinging yorkers. If he fires, Sri Lanka will be halfway to winning.

    OUR PREDICTION: Sri Lanka should take this one, given this is a rusty Proteas side, playing in conditions that do not favour their style of play.

    South Africa – AB de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn.

    Sri Lanka – Angelo Mathews (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Ashan Priyanjan, Upul Tharanga, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal.

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    Dan Gillespie