Sri Lanka hoping to give Sanga, Mahela winning sendoff

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 22, 2014 04:35 hrs

The sort of form Sri Lanka are currently in, they represent a daunting task for any team. South Africa could well have to tackle the challenge without their captain, Faf du Plessis and their main strike bowler, Dale Steyn.

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It’s clearly not the way any team would like to kick off a major competition, having two key players nursing injuries, never mind that it’s against a formidable opponent. So the Lankans do begin this match as slight favourites, but they will know the Proteas will still come hard at them.

The potential absence of du Plessis and Steyn places more responsibility on the likes of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, David Miller, the Morkel brothers, Albie and Morne, and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

This does illustrate the depth the South Africans have within their ranks, but it will be interesting to see if it’s enough to topple a Sri Lankan team who are more familiar with the conditions and fresh from their convincing Asia Cup win a fortnight ago.

The finalists of 2012 are a well balanced side bolstered by the return of veteran opener Tillakaratne Dilshan who missed the Asia Cup due to a finger injury. The fact that two of the team’s other leading lights, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, are quitting the international T20 game after this event would also have inspired the rest of the squad to try and give the pair a winning send off.

Looking at the evening clash between New Zealand and England, I would have to say the Kiwis appear better suited to the format judging by the players they have on board.

They boast of some exciting young players in all-rounder Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham and also hold the edge in terms of experience with guys like the skipper Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.

By the same token, England will undoubtedly miss the quality of Kevin Pietersen although I’m sure the team have accepted the board’s decision and moved on. They have gone the distance in this competition once, in 2010, but this is a new look squad.

Therefore, Stuart Broad, the captain, will have to lead from the front while the team rallies around the likes of Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales who has been one of the top performers in world T20 cricket over the past year. Simply put, this game presents the upcoming talents in both sides a fantastic opportunity to make a name for themselves on the world stage.

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