Pride at stake for South Africa, Sri Lanka

Both teams will play only for pride, and not necessarily with an eye on the points.

Defending champion Sri Lanka was low on confidence after a series of ordinary results post the retirements of Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.   -  Reuters

It took one blow from England to knock Sri Lanka and South Africa out of the World T20. Now the two teams face-off in their last league match here at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Monday with little to salvage.

No doubt, no team likes to lose. But it is difficult to keep the motivation high when there is not much to play for. Therefore, both teams will play only for pride, and not necessarily with an eye on the points.

These teams came with contrasting expectations. Defending champion Sri Lanka was low on confidence after a series of ordinary results post the retirements of Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Add to it the injury to pace spearhead Lasith Malinga, and the young Lankan team looked woefully short of resources to match the best on the big stage.

South Africa, among the favourites to emerge as the first-time winner, boasted of several prolific performers in the shortest format. Much was expected from >A.B. de Villiers and an attack headed by >Dale Steyn . However, more than its batting, the bowling let the team down in the competition.

Once England chased down 229 in the opener, South Africa conceded another 172 runs to Afghanistan in a match it was expected to win with ease. As was the case, the team conceding around 400 runs in 40 overs had plenty to worry about. Thereafter, it was too much to expect from this attack to restrict the mighty West Indies to under 122.

With this being the background, South Africa knows that no matter how much it scored, its bowling was capable of leaking more runs. However, in this battle of two battered sides, South Africa could emerge stronger only if its bowlers raise the bar.

Hashim Amla, who spoke to the media on Sunday, was disappointment personified. On the question of the team not living up to the pre-event expectations, he was rather candid in saying “every ICC event we have to answer this same question. We did play on grounds that were quite different to each other. We could not bat and bowl equally well in the key matches.”

In varying degrees, the Lankans felt the pain of being out of contention. On Saturday night, Angelo Mathews had reasons to feel gutted in spite of lifting Lanka from an embarrassing 15 for four in three overs to within two big hits of victory in the final over.

Leg-spinner >Jeffrey Vandersay chose to look at the brighter side on Sunday when he said, “our batting is quite good. From 15 for four we came back fighting (against England). It shows the character and potential of the team.”

However, such a defeat hurts for a long time and 48 hours is too less for a team to recover. As things stand, Lanka finds itself on the brink of ending up as the most battered defending champion in the short history of the competition.

Squads:

South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quiton de Kock, Faf de Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, A.B. de Villiers, David Miller, David Wiese, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Jean Paul Duminy and Dale Steyn.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedara, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Rangana Herath, Jeffrey Vandersay, Dushmantha Chameera, Shehan Jayasuriya, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal and Sachithra Senanayake.