Can Sri Lanka snap their losing streak in ODIs?

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Dhananjaya de Silva congratulates Kusal Mendis on getting to his half-century © Associated Press

Big Picture

When Sri Lanka last won an ODI, farming had not been invented, and woolly mammoths were roaming the planet. Don’t look it up on Statsguru, but that is what it feels like. Every recent series plays out the same way. The captain – generally there is a new one every couple of series – arrives confident that Sri Lanka’s long-standing one-day problems have been sorted. They are sure that the last clot of losses has been learned from, and that the injection of new personnel will bring fresh energy.

Then they get out on to the field and players who had been in form are no longer in form, players who had been out of form are doubling down on their bad form, and players who are constantly threatening to get into decent form keep threatening without actually quite getting there. They have lost each of the six ODIs they have played this year. Of their last 10 completed matches, they have won only one.

This terrible run of ODI results over the past three years has cost various Sri Lanka captains their jobs. Upul Tharanga, Thisara Perera, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews have all been jettisoned as captain in the last two years. With no wins from seven attempts under his leadership, it is not a stretch to say that Lasith Malinga‘s job is also now on the line. If Sri Lanka don’t snap the losing streak, there’s a chance they go to the World Cup with a new captain.

South Africa, meanwhile, no longer have the pressure of winning the series upon them, and are free to experiment with their XI. There are World Cup spots still up for grabs, and the middle order batting – while pretty good in Durban – still has a little room for improvement. Questions that require answers include: Is Dale Steyn up to another World Cup? Can they dream of life beyond Hashim Amla (who will miss this match due to personal reasons)? Is Anrich Nortje worth investing in?

With two ODIs to go before the selectors have to name the World Cup squad, there is more riding on these dead rubbers than usual.

Form guide

South Africa WWWWL (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri LankaLLLLL

In the spotlight

Aiden Markram has been decidedly modest in ODIs so far, having made only one fifty from 16 innings. But in domestic List A cricket this season, the man has been in such scorching form, that it would be almost unthinkable for the selectors to leave him out of the XI on Wednesday. In his last three matches for the Titans, Markram has hit 169, 139 and 85 – the second of those scores coming in a world-record sixth-wicket List A stand with Farhaan Behardien. If Markram can carry that form through into international one-day cricket, South Africa will feel they have options in their top order.

Though often ineffective in ODIs last year, Kusal Mendis finally seems to be regaining his footing in the format, hitting 60 in the first one-dayer, then 41 in the third. With Sri Lanka’s batting order now substantially weakened (Kusal Perera has joined Angelo Mathews on the hamstring injury list), there is a little extra responsibility on Kusal Mendis – something he generally relishes.

Dale Steyn bowls © Getty Images

Team news

South Africa will be tempted to rest Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir for the dead rubber, while bringing Steyn into the fold for the first time in the series. JP Duminy may enter the XI as well.

South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt.), 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Anrich Nortje, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

With Kusal Perera now out of the frame, Angelo Perera may have a chance to play his first ODI in almost three years.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Angelo Perera, 4 Oshada Fernando, 5 Kusal Mendis, 6 Kamindu Mendis, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt.), 11 Kasun Rajitha

Pitch and conditions

The weather in Port Elizabeth is forecast to be cloudy at times, but no rain is expected. The pitch generally has something in it for the spinners.

Stats and trivia

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