The 2-0 loss in the Test series came a massive jolt to the South African unit and they have put their best foot forward in the 50-over series. In the first ODI it was Faf du Plessis with a splendid century leading the way while in the second encounter an all-round show from the bowlers saw the hosts winning by 113 runs.
South Africa have been ruthless but at the same time, Sri Lanka have looked rather timid. They have just not been able to apply enough pressure for long stretches and the odd occasion they had the upper-hand like in the second ODI, the batsmen failed to capitalise.
Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lankan captain, pulled no punches in his assessment of the team's performance after the second ODI insisting that the players should "value these opportunities" that have come their way. At the same venue where the visitors stunned South Africa in the first Test, Malinga will hope his side can stage some sort of a comeback.
South Africa, despite leading the series 2-0 have had their share of problems. The batting has been inconsistent as was visible in Centurion where they collapsed from 131/1 to 251. Only du Plessis and Quinton de Kock have looked in form and with a handful of games left before the World Cup, the hosts will look to iron out these chinks in the remaining games. The likes of Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller haven't done much so far and a lot of the spotlight will be on them come Sunday.
De Kock admitted that the collapse in the second game was not ideal but backed his teammates to come up with the goods when the situation arises.
“We spoke after the batting performance, and we were disappointed with the way we got out," the wicket-keeper batsman said. "We have quality players, Reeza and Rassie have shown that in the past, so has Dave Miller. There will be a time when we will need them, and they will score big runs for us."
The bowling, on the other hand, has been immaculate despite South Africa benching Dale Steyn. Kagiso Rabada has generated serious pace and bounce while Lungi Ngidi on comeback has looked menacing. New-comer Anrich Nortje too has impressed so far in the two ODIs while Imran Tahir has been his usual impeccable self. Wiaan Mulder is probably the only bowler who is yet to come to the party and the hosts will want him to get amongst the wickets as well sooner rather than later.
South Africa will want to close the series in Durban itself as that will give them a chance to do some permutations and combinations in the final two games. It is unlikely they will experiment too much with a winning combination but du Plessis will certainly expect much more from his batsmen than has been on show so far this series.
From Sri Lanka's point of view, all eyes will be on how Malinga leads his side after two tough losses. He has urged his batsmen to grab their chances and will hope that happens in Durban. Their problem starts right at the top. The openers have so far had partnerships of 13 and 11 in the two ODIs which is certainly not ideal while Kusal Perera has also failed to fire too. Another key player who is yet to find his feet is Thisara Perera. The all-rounder is a vital cog for and Sri Lanka have heavily relied heavily on him in the last few games. With the World Cup drawing closer, Perera's importance in the side increases even more.
Sri Lanka's inexperience in the chase showed in Centurion and they might bring back Upul Tharanga in place of Aviskha Fernando to give more solidity up front. The bowlers did a more than decent job in the second ODI and Malinga will hope his batsmen take some heart from that and come up with a similar show come Kingsmead.
It has moved around a bit in Durban in the last few ODIs and similar conditions can be expected on Sunday. There are thundershowers predicted right through the day.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Willem Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Rassie van der Dussen
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (c), Akila Dananjaya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Oshada Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Avishka Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Kamindu Mendis, Angelo Perera, Kusal Perera, Priyamal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Upul Tharanga, Isuru Udana
First Published: March 9, 2019, 6:50 PM IST