It's do or die for the South Africans heading into the third one-day international against Sri Lanka. After losing both the first two matches, the Proteas have to win in order to have a fighting chance in the series.
Considering that it's been 10 years since they won a one-day international in Sri Lanka, it's not going to be easy. The visitors have also been dealt a blow to their batting, Hashim Amla will miss out. Amla, who sat out of the first match with a neck injury, picked up another injury during the second ODI.
While fielding, Amla suffered a grade one groin strain. These types of injuries take anything from three to seven days to heal. The Proteas are unlikely to risk their best batsman, so Colin Ingram will most likely return to the top of the order. The alternative is to opt for the inexperience of Quinton de Kock. While he might not be quite ready for the big time, De Kock and fellow opener Alviro Petersen know each other from their domestic teams. The pair could prove to be a fruitful partnership. The risk is high, but the reward could be even higher.
It's a venue shift for the next match, with the sides scheduled to square off in Kandy. South Africa have played just one ODI there, or at least, they tried to. The only game played there in 1993 was rained off. If Proteas fans are hoping to clutch at straws, at least they managed to win the Test they played there in 2003.
Sri Lanka last played an ODI there in 2001 against the West Indies, winning comfortably by 41 runs. It's not a venue that is used very often for ODIs, with Sri Lanka only playing five one-dayers there since the 1980s. They've won all but one—the first game ever played at the ground. The hosts went down to Pakistan by eight wickets in that clash.
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers admitted that his troops weren't good enough in the second game, albeit showing signs of improvement.
Long bus ride to Kandy! Much improved performance last night but still nowhere near our best. Not giving up #proteafire— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) July 24, 2013
The bowlers in particular looked far more cohesive, but the batsmen still struggled. Getting the batting to click will be the greatest challenge for the Proteas. Sri Lanka's bowlers have been good and precise, for the most part. South Africa, though, have looked far too spooked by far too many average balls.
If South Africa can finally get to click as a unit, they might just edge a win. However, Sri Lanka are favourites. The reasonably unfamiliar conditions to both sides levels the playing field a little bit more, though.
Some rain is forecast, but it shouldn't be significant enough for there to be no result.