Quarter Final 3 – 2:30 pm AEST on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at the Sydney Cricket Ground
South Africa – $1.42 at CrownBet.com.au
Sri Lanka – $3.00 at Bet365.com.au
THE quarterfinals of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup will commence on Wednesday, with South Africa looking to forget past calamities as they take on a talented Sri Lanka side at the SCG.
All the pressure is on the Proteas to live up to the ‘favourites’ tag – one which has not sat well with them in previous knockout matches – while the Lankans will look to shoot down any doubts about a perceived lack of firepower with the ball.
There have already been one or two questions asked of the South Africans, and they haven’t exactly answered all of them. Having been left profoundly lost for words against both India and Pakistan, the top-ranked Test nation has had to make do with a second-place finish in Group B.
Besides those two notable hiccups, there has been plenty to keep SA fans optimistic about their prospects at the business end of the tourney. Indeed, Sth Africa’s last visit to Sydney was their most productive outing so far: a 257-run annihilation of the West Indies, which included a brutal 66-ball 162 from AB de Villiers.
Having eased past the United Arab Emirates in their last group game, in which Vernon Philander made a successful return from injury with 2 for 34 from 8.3 overs, you wouldn’t expect the South African camp to change an awful lot.
The only puzzle to work out is who will make way for Faf du Plessis, who was rested for the UAE clash. A straight swap with Farhaan Behardien is the obvious choice, but opener Quinton de Kock’s complete lack of form (53 runs from six innings) has raised concerns over the wicketkeeper’s spot in the team.
Then there is the bigger, badder monkey on the other shoulder: South Africa’s horrendous record in the World Cup knockout rounds. The Proteas have never progressed past the first bracket, let alone reached the final or won the tournament, and coach Russell Domingo admitted he and his charges were eager to shake the ‘choker’ tag.
“It’s been part of South African cricket for quite some time, every time we get to these events it’s going to be questioned,” Domingo said when questioned by the press on his side’s previous World Cup disappointments.
“We’ve spoken about it, we’ve faced the fact that in the past we have let opportunities slip by us. Hopefully, we have learnt from the mistakes that previous sides have made at events like this.
“And by all means we want to avoid that happening to us. But at the end of the day, we just want to play good cricket if the opportunity arises.
“If somebody is in that stage of the game under pressure, we try to focus on things we’ve done really well and not get too caught up in the past.”
Trying their best to turn up the heat on Wednesday evening will be Sri Lanka, whose progress thus far in Australia and New Zealand has relied heavily on the work of their star willow-wielders.
Leading from the front, as ever, is Kumar Sangakkara, with four centuries in six games to top the tournament batting charts with 496 runs at an average of 124.00. The veteran keeper-bat hasn’t done it alone, though, with able assistance from the likes of Tillakaratne Dilshan (395 runs at 79.00) and Lahiru Thirimanne (269 runs at 52.20).
However, the question is not whether the 1996 World Cup winners can post a score, but whether they have enough genuine wicket-taking quality to bowl a good side out. The answer may well lie in the availability of one Rangana Herath.
The left-arm spinner required stitches after being struck on the fingers during Sri Lanka’s nine-wicket win over England on March 1. He has missed the two games since, but the SL camp is optimistic that Herath will pull up for the quarterfinal clash.
Speaking to reporters at the SCG, former Sri Lanka star Sanath Jayasuriya said, “Rangana is recovering fast and I hope he will be alright.
“The stitches have been taken off and he’ll be ready for the match. That’s what I’m thinking, it will depend on today and tomorrow, probably tomorrow.”
Captain Angelo Mathews was also in doubt after leaving the field with an Achilles problem during Sri Lanka’s match against Scotland last Thursday, but the all-rounder has been cleared to play.
The news is less good for Dinesh Chandimal, who will miss the remainder of the World Cup after retiring hurt with a hamstring injury during his promising innings of 52 against Australia. He joins fellow batsman Dimuth Karunaratne (broken hand) on the sidelines.
Possible team selection
South Africa: AB de Villiers (C), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, David Miller, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakarra, Mahela Jayawardene, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Dushmantha Chameera
Most sixes: South Africa ($1.57 at Bet365)
Highest first 15 overs: Sri Lanka ($2.30 at Luxbet)
Considering South Africa’s well-documented woes in the ICC World Cup knockout phase, you could be forgiven for thinking the bookmakers might be a little more generous with their pricing of the Proteas. Still, Domingo’s charges have to be the front-runners here; they boast proven one-day performers in every discipline, whereas Sri Lanka, for all their batting ammo, don’t have much support for Malinga in the pace stocks. With Hashim Amla and de Kock not quite at their best, however, we reckon it’s well worth looking at Dilshan, Thirimanne, et al to outscore them over the first 15 overs. In any case, don’t expect a cakewalk for South Africa – there will be some kind of bizarre drama, whatever the result.
Top run-scorer markets
AB de Villiers ($4.00 at Luxbet.com)
This one isn’t exactly rocket surgery. The South Africa skipper has already demolished the SCG once this tournament, humiliating a Windies attack which had quite a bit more bite than Sri Lanka’s does (on paper, at least). If he gets in, just sit back and enjoy – for there is nothing more wondrous to behold in world cricket right now than AB in full flight.
Hashim Amla ($4.00 at Bet365)
The stats tell us that when Amla scores runs, South Africa win. The normally calm and composed opener has taken an uncharacteristically aggressive approach in this tournament, and it hasn’t always paid off; but if the Lankans give him a chance to get his eye in, you can expect a big, big score.
He has four World Cup tons already, so one more would be no surprise. His knocks against England and Australia showed that, at 37 years of age, Sangakkara’s eye for the quick bowlers is as good as it ever was. Steyn, Philander and Morkel will have to be pitch perfect to keep Kumar quiet in this kind of form.
Dilshan Tillakaratne ($4.50 at Sportsbet)
While everyone is talking about the guy listed above, Dilshan is having an absolute cracker of a tournament in his own right. The 38-year-old has been powerful yet consistent at the top of the Sri Lankan batting order, passing 40 (with two tons in the mix) on four of his six knocks. On his day, he can take apart any attack in the world.
Top wicket-taker tips
Morne Morkel ($4.00 at Bet365)
With 13 wickets at an average of just under 17, two-metre Morne has been South Africa’s most dangerous bowler at World Cup 2015. Sri Lankan batsmen have traditionally struggled against tall, bouncy quicks on Australian pitches, so expect Morkel to do a bit of damage if he gets his length right.
Imran Tahir ($4.00 at Luxbet)
Say what you will about the Pakistan-born leg spinner, but he gets the job done in One Day International cricket. Tahir has racked up 11 wickets to date at this World Cup, including 5 for 45 against the West Indies on his last visit to the SCG. If South Africa bowl in the second innings, he could be the difference.
Lasith Malinga ($3.50 at WilliamHill.com.au)
Sri Lanka’s only express striker will need to bag a few if his side is to upset the South African applecart. Malinga has bounced back from a tough opening day against New Zealand (0 for 84) to claim 11 scalps in his five games since, with best bowling figures of 3 for 35 versus Bangladesh.
If he is declared fit and his spinning fingers are in good working order, Herath will provide the Lankans with a sorely needed counterpoint to the threat of Malinga. His left-arm orthodox is difficult to get away at the best of times, and a dry Sydney pitch could play right into his hands.