Imperfect South Africa And Sri Lanka Set Sights On Survival

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Imperfect South Africa and Sri Lanka set sights on survival. Can Quinton de Kock make a flying return after the recent turn of events?

Imperfect South Africa And Sri Lanka Set Sights On SurvivalCan Quinton de Kock make a flying return after the recent turn of events?

We hear too much about cricket being a team game for individuals, but it has never been more true than this week. Quinton de Kock is the pertinent individual, and for nothing he has done on the field.

De Kock's refusal to play in South Africa's match against West Indies in Dubai on Tuesday rather than take a knee, as the team had been ordered to by CSA, rocked the world game. He has since apologised and agreed to do as he has been told, and the show can go on with him. But not without consequence.

More than eight years ago, De Kock came to the international game as a reluctant celebrity. Surely he yearns for anonymity now more than ever. He will be the focus of intense attention from the moment he emerges from the dressing room in Sharjah on Saturday. Every one of his moves – and non-moves – no matter how mere, will be poured over and analysed to within a smidgen, or beyond, of its relevance or perceived relevance.

It is not a nice place to be, and while many will hope the moment passes without too much drama we need to remember that De Kock put himself in this position. The smoothest way for him to extricate himself would be to play a commanding role in helping his team beat Sri Lanka. A century, for instance, would push Tuesday's events out of mind.

The South Africans will start as favourites, not least because they swept a T20I series 3-0 in Colombo in September. De Kock was central to that effort, scoring 36, 58 not out and 59 not out to finish as the leading batter on either side. The visitors' spin attack emerged as a serious threat in the same rubber. Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj, Bjorn Fortuin and Aiden Markram bowled almost two-thirds of the overs, conceded slightly more than half the runs, and claimed nearly three-quarters of the wickets. All four are aboard for the World Cup.

De Kock's replacement at the top of the order on Tuesday, Reeza Hendricks, scored 39 off 30 balls – decent, especially considering he had no idea he would play until he reached the dressing room. That confident step into the breach shouldn't be overlooked, even if it means smuggling a top order batter into the middle of the line-up. Perhaps that will happen at the expense of Heinrich Klaasen, who hasn't fired as well as he would have liked so far in the tournament.

The key figure for Sri Lanka is likely to be Maheesh Theekshana, the unconventional spinner who made the South Africans look silly in September even though he had modest figures of 1/93 in the dozen overs he bowled. Importantly, he all but becalmed De Kock – who couldn't score more than 37 runs off the 42 balls he faced from Theekshana.

The teams go into Saturday's match with a win and a loss apiece, which makes this clash crucial to their hopes of staying in the running for the semi-finals. Both have lost to Australia, who fielded an identical XI in the two games. The Aussies beat South Africa by five wickets with two balls to spare in Abu Dhabi, and downed Sri Lanka by seven wickets with 18 deliveries remaining in Dubai.

That is about the size of the gap between Saturday's protagonists, but of course cricket – even T20I cricket – is far closer to art than science. For instance, while South Africa took Australia deep, Sri Lanka scored 36 more runs and lost three fewer wickets against the Aussies than the South Africans. That's more than enough to swing a game one way or the other. Let's see how pertinent individuals influence that narrative.

When: South Africa vs Sri Lanka, Super 12 Group 1, 14:00 Local, 12:00 SAST

Where: Sharjah Cricket Stadium

What to expect: Sharjah has been maligned as the tournament's most difficult ground for batting. But three of the top five totals in the first 10 Super 12 games were scored there, along with six of 24 half-centuries. Two of those were by Sri Lankans, and two against them.

T20I Head to Head: South Africa 11-5 Sri Lanka (2-1 in T20 WC games)

Team Watch:

South Africa

Injury/Availability Concerns: Quinton de Kock and his knee are now on the same page. So, none.

Tactics & Matchups: Once de Kock has taken a knee, the attention will shift to how he performs. Will he celebrate his return with a booming innings? Will it all be too much for him?

Probable XI: Temba Bavuma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Reeza Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

Sri Lanka

Injury/Availability Concerns: Now that Maheesh Theekshana is over the side strain that kept him out of his team's opener against Bangladesh, none.

Tactics & Matchups: Mickey Arthur has said he would like to tamper as little as possible with the XI, but he could do worse than bring in Akila Dananjaya or Dhananjaya de Silva for Chamika Karunaratne. Kusal Perera has faced 17 balls from Kagiso Rabada in T20Is, and smacked them for 29 runs. Will Perera's success against South Africa's ace continue?

Probable XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera (wk), Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana

Did you know?

South Africa have a better win ratio in T20Is against Sri Lanka than they do against any other opponents except New Zealand. They have beaten the Lankans and the Kiwis 11 times each.

What they said:

“We understood why he did what he did, and it is the end of the story. If he is selected, and I am sure he will be, he will come back and it will be like nothing ever happened because nobody held any grievances against him. Hopefully it will be like it always was and he can be in the right frame of mind to deliver a match-winning performance like he has done for so many years. Having ‘Quinny' on the field as our brother, our friend and our world-class player will be good.” – Rassie van der Dussen on the return of Quinton de Kock.

“Decisions are personal, I would have thought. Or directed by your board. One thing that we're very clear on is that there's no room for any form of racism, discrimination or anything like that within cricket, within sport, within the world.” – Mickey Arthur on the De Kock affair.

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