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Sri Lanka's familiarity with Sharjah could be decisive vs South Africa

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Sharjah, Oct 30 (IANS) Sri Lanka would like to use the familiarity with the venue to their advantage, while South Africa would be keen to brush aside the Dasun Shanaka-led side’s challenge, the way they did during the series in Colombo earlier this year, when the teams clash in their ICC T20 World Cup ‘Super 12’ match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium later on Saturday.

Sri Lanka have played two of their games in Sharjah and the experience will come in handy against a side that had beaten them 3-0 in a T20I series last month at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

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“To be honest, we have to assess the conditions first. Hopefully playing two games there (Sharjah) have a favour in our side so we can read the wickets really well, so I feel we are slightly ahead of South Africa team,” a confident Sri Lanka captain, Dasun Shanaka said ahead of the game later on Saturday.

“You know, the Sharjah wicket is always two-paced, so even in the last game West Indies and Bangladesh we saw that ball is going up and down,” added Shanaka.

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Travelling to Sri Lanka in September, South Africa emphatically won all three matches. Defending 163 in the first game, Temba Bavuma’s players went on to win the next two matches by nine and 10 wickets respectively.

Both sides have had similar fates in the tricky Group 1. While the Proteas lost their opening game to Australia in the ‘Super 12s’, they came back strongly to defeat the West Indies. Sri Lanka too lost to Australia before overcoming Bangladesh.

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Having entered the tournament through Group A of the First Round, Sri Lanka have proved many of their doubters wrong, with their defeat to Australia the only blemish in five matches. The team under Shanaka and coach Mickey Arthur has performed consistently and is a far cry from the one that lost the series to the Proteas.

South Africa, despite the ‘Black Lives Matter’ controversy, mustered a winning performance against the West Indies, chasing a target of 144 set by the defending champions. Reeza Hendricks opened the innings with a confident 39 coming in for the absent Quinton de Kock, with Rassie van der Dussen (43 not out) and Aiden Markram (51 not out) making light work of the task.

Since South Africa’s last match, opener and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock has declared his availability for the fixture, should he be considered.

Markram is coming into the match on the back of knocks of 40 and an unbeaten 51 in South Africa’s opening two games here. The middle-order batter has an impressive record in the format this year, where he has amassed 499 runs at an average of 45.3 in 13 innings.

For Shanaka, his side has no injury concerns, with spinner Maheesh Theekshana returning in their defeat to Australia. Shanaka would be relying heavily on Wanindu Hasaranga to deliver against the Proteas later on Saturday after wickets were hard to come by for the Islanders during the home T20I series against South Africa.

The all-rounder has been consistent across formats in the last couple of years. In the World Cup so far, he has proven to be the same, having scored 81 runs and taken eight wickets in five matches played so far.

With both teams having lost a match in their Super 12 campaigns already, they sit precariously in the middle of the group, knowing that a win will be needed to remain in touching distance with Australia and England, who also clash later on Saturday.

A defeat will mean an uphill task in the quest for a semifinal berth.

Possible South Africa XI: Quinton de Kock/Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma (c), Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

Possible Sri Lanka XI: Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana

–IANS

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