Sri Lanka vs. South Africa: Biggest Keys to ODI Series Clash

Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

Sri Lankan bowler Tillakaratne Dilshan, left, celebrates the dismissal of South African batsman Vernon Philander during the second one-day international cricket match between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Pallekele, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Tillakaratne Dilshan showed his prowess with both bat and ball as he inspired Sri Lanka to victory over South Africa in Pallekele on Wednesday to level the three-match ODI series at 1-1.

The hosts won the toss and opted to bat first with Dilshan scoring 86 from 90 balls and Mahela Jayawardene hitting a 70-ball 48 as Sri Lanka ended 267 all out.

In pursuit, only Hashim Amla scored big for South Africa with 101, while Dilshan took 3 for 40 from his 10 overs and led his team to an 87-run victory, having bowled out their opposition in just 38.1 overs.

An Amla century had previously always guaranteed victory for South Africa, but the Sri Lankans broke the trend, per Cricket Record:

The South African opener is in fine form—his century in the first ODI led his side to victory—but Dilshan showed on Wednesday that he can be equally influential.

Those two players will both have a key part to play in the outcome of the series, which culminates on Saturday in Hambantota. 

Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

The two sides are very evenly matched—sitting as they do at third and fourth in the ICC ODI rankings—and, as has already been shown, one individual's performance can make all the difference. 

However, perhaps the most significant factor that will decide the series is in fact the respective sides' batting depth.

They both have lineups with strong top orders, but, as shown on Wednesday by South Africa, sometimes they are prone to misfiring, per ESPNcricinfo:

Jacques Kallis could be essential to Saturday's match if he can form a strong partnership with Amla or AB de Villiers, but thus far he has failed, again per ESPNcricinfo:

The likes of Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy will also need to step up, having failed so far against Sri Lanka.

Similarly, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera have not wowed thus far, but they have looked better than their opponents.

This greater consistency in the top order gives Sri Lanka something of an edge going into the third ODI, and South Africa's main men with the bat need to make their presence known.

Equally, both sides will be looking to their top men with the ball—Dale Steyn and Lasith Malinga—to take the vital wickets that will win them the game.

Thus far, both have drawn a blank wickets-wise in one of the matches with Malinga edging things overall, having taken 4-24 in an impressive display in Pallekele.

Again Sri Lanka look to have greater depth in their bowling with the likes of Dilshan and Ajantha Mendis, although Ryan McLaren looks good having taken six wickets so far.

Sri Lanka's depth and home advantage gives them the edge for the final ODI, but both matches so far have been won convincingly by each of the two sides, making Saturday's clash a close one to call.