Lankan Lions ready for Proteas Challenge in T20 World Cup

The Sri Lankan side has been in good form this year having won their last three T20 series and will look to replicate the same in their T20 World Cup opener.

Sri Lanka will look to start their World Cup campaign with a win when they take on a strong South African side at the newly built Nassau County Ground in New York. The Sri Lankan side has been in good form this year having won their last three T20 series against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. As far as South Africa is concerned the Aiden Markram-led side has had a roller coaster ride in the shortest format of the game having lost their previous series against West Indies although the team that faced the West Indies wasn’t South Africa’s full-strength side with the majority of the players fulfilling there IPL commitments.

In this article, we will look at all the important aspects of the match which promises to be a keenly contested one.

Sri Lanka

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The Wahanindu Hasaranga-led side will look to carry on the momentum that it has gained in the last few series in the T20 format having won the last three series all be it against lower-ranked teams. The Lankan Lions have been able to form a strong core of players in the last few years with the majority of them featuring in their third consecutive T20 World Cup having represented the team in the 2021 and 2022 editions as well.

One of Sri Lanka’s biggest strength going in the tournament is the quality of spinners that the team has at its disposal. The duo of Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana have made a name for themselves in various T20 leagues around the world and have the ability to bowl in the powerplay and in death overs as well.

Players to Watch Out For

Wanindu Hasaranga

The Sri Lankan captain has been a vital part of the team in the last few years and his ability to contribute with both bat and ball makes him one of the key players for the island nation in the multination tournament. Having said that Hasaranga has the tendency to get injured quite often which is evident by the fact that he missed the entire season of the IPL 2024 after being picked by SRH in the player auction due to an injury. Hasaranga’s proneness to injury is something that the team management will be mindful of as the tournament progresses.

Also Read: Teams With The Most Number Of T20 World Cup Titles

Angelo Mathews

The former Sri Lankan captain has found a new lease of life after being constantly left out from the side in the last few years. Mathews made a roaring comeback in the team with a match-winning knock in the home series against Zimbabwe earlier this year. Along with it, Mathews has started to bowl again which is good news for Sri Lanka before the T20 World Cup as his bowling provides a good balance to the team who can then go in with four bowlers along with Mathes and Shanka being the fifth and sixth option as far as Sri Lanka’s bowling line up is concerned which in returns lengthens the team’s batting till number eight.

Maheesh Theekshana

Sri Lankan right-arm offbreak bowler who has the ability to bowl with the new ball in the first six overs of an innings in T20 cricket has made a name for himself for bowling his quota of overs at an economy of less than seven runs per over and plays a crucial role in providing the team a good platform while bowling. Apart from his economical bowling Theekshana also possesses the skill of bowling in the last five overs with the amount of variations he has at his disposal.

Also Read: Bowlers With Best Economy Rates In T20 World Cup

Probable XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Kamindu Mendis, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga (C), Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, Dilshan Madushanka

South Africa

The Proteas have had a topsy-turvy ride as far as their performance in T20 cricket is concerned. The Aiden Markram-led side last won a T20I series in 2022 and have lost their last three T20I series one against Australia and two against the West Indies. Although the team possesses some big names like David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, and Quinton de Kok in the batting department, and Tabraiz Shamsi, Kagiso Rabada, and Keshav Maharaj with the ball South Africa hasn’t been able to cross the knockout hurdle even once having fallen just short of booking a spot in the Semi Final in the T20 World Cup 2021 held in UAE.

Players to Watch Out For

Aiden Markram

Renowned as one of the technically correct batters that South Africa has produced South African captain Markram hasn’t been in the best of form leading into the multination tournament having failed to make any significant contribution with the bat for SRH in IPL 2024. Having said that the right-hander has been one of South Africa’s most prolific run scorers in limited-overs cricket since 2023 and will look to replicate the same in the T20 World Cup.

Kagiso Rabada

The South African pacer has been in indifferent form this year having failed to make much impact with the ball for Punjab Kings in IPL 2024 which was one of the reasons for his team’s poor performance in the multi-team tournament. If we talk about Rabada’s performances in the last two editions of the T20 World Cup the fast bowler has been the pick of the bowler despite his team failing to make it to the semi-final on both occasions. His biggest strength is his ability to bowl with pace and control with the new ball which helps him in picking early wickets in the first six overs. Along with that Rabada is lethal with his accurate yorkers in the final five overs which makes him a real threat to the opposition.

Keahav Maharaj

The left-arm spinner has grown to become a reliable bowler in T20 cricket. Known for his accurate line and lengths Maharaj will play a vital role in South Africa’s performance in the multination tournament considering his control with both new and old balls. Along with his bowling, Maharaj has the ability to make handy contributions with the bat something which can be a decisive factor in the tournament on certain occasions given the fact that T20 cricket has evolved to be more inclined toward batters with flat pitches and small boundaries that are on offer nowadays.

Probable XI: Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Ryan Rickelton, Aiden Markram (C), David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Tristan Stubbs, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

Pitch Report

The Nassau County Ground in New York which was built in record time has been quite an untested territory having hosted only one warm-up game so far. With this being the first-ever international game to be played at this ground it won’t be easy to predict how the pitch will behave. Having said that if we take into account the warm-up game played at this ground between India and Bangladesh the pitch appeared to be two-paced with variable bounce which was evident by the fact that some balls kept low while others bounced excessively making life difficult for the batters. A score of around 150 might be a challenging score on this wicket.

Head to Head in T20 World Cup

Matches Played: 4

Sri Lanka: 1, South Africa: 3

Match Winner Prediction

Going by the recent form it looks that Sri Lanka will easily win the match. Having said that South Africa possesses some big names in their lineup which can rattle the Lankan Lions. Keeping that in mind we predict South Africa to win the match.