The Proteas won the toss and sent the Sri Lankans in to bat in a fierce wind at St George’s Park, in the first of five ODIs.
‘There is a bit of juice in the wicket so we want to expose their top order and hopefully get a few early wickets,’ said captain AB de Villiers. They have four seamers and leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
This is payback time after the Proteas under Farhaan Behardien lost the T20 series 2-1. But this time, over 50 overs, the Sri Lankans (and the South Africans) will have to be more consistent for longer.
The Proteas, now under AB de Villiers, are a lot stronger than they were in the T20 series, when they rested several top players. Back in action are Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada. The last time they were together, they smashed Australia 5-0.
De Villiers, particularly, has something to prove after a six-month injury-enforced break. He showed glimses of his old style in the third T20, but he will want to show that he is really in the groove.
The leadership is another burden on his shoulders, and he is understandably cautious.
‘Even though we feel that we are a more talented and a more skilful and a better group of players than Sri Lanka, we know they are very dangerous at the moment,’ he said. ‘They are very motivated with lots of young talent that can come good at certain times. We are very aware of that.’
If South Africa stick to the basics, and tighten up on the appalling fielding display they presented in the deciding T20, when five catches went down, they should have too much muscle for Sri Lanka.
They also need to get into a winning mode ahead of the Champions Trophy in England in June. Ironically, they meet in their opening match of the tournament at The Oval on June 3.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir.
Sri Lanka: Niroshan Dickwella, Sandun Weerakkody, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Upul Tharanga (capt), Dhananjaya de Silva, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Jeffrey Vandersay, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan