Twelve straight wins in as many matches followed by four losses in the next seven is not the kind of form South Africa would’ve wanted to enter the Champions Trophy with. But if there is a team to beat in the tournament, it is the number one ranked ODI side South Africa.
Sri Lanka on the other hand have gone from bad to worse since their legends Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan retired. They’ve only won five of their last 20 completed matches, all of them against sides ranked lower than them. Moreover, things aggravated in the build-up to the eight team tournament, when Sri Lanka were beaten by Scotland.
South Africa have an edge over Sri Lanka, who will be without their skipper Angelo Matthews, as they have beaten the opposition five times in eight encounters in the ICC tournaments.
South Africa may be a little bewildered by their recent thrashing from England but they will be only team to have four of the Top 10 ICC ODI Batsmen and both of the Top 2 ODI Bowlers in the squad. A strong batting line-up and a powerful strong-hitting all-rounder in Chris Morris, South Africa will be looking to shrug off the choker’s tag for once and all. Kagiso Rabada will lead the pace attack in Dale Steyn’s absence with Morris and Pretorius to serve as his knights. Their only worry will be getting those extra runs in the late overs as they lack a determined power hitter to finish things off in a high at the death.
Kagiso Rabada will be leading Proteas pace attack in absence of Steyn
Sri Lankans are yet to find out where their true strength lay. Their bowlers have shamed them most often than not but with prodigiously talented batsmen and a mix of youth and experience, Sri Lankans might be hoping to put on a decent enough total on the board for their bowlers to defend. Their fielding has not been on par with the international standards but still they are a better and composed side overcoming the retirement of their legends. With their ability to be agile and threatening in major tournaments, South Africa will have to do a good day’s work to beat them.
Kagiso Rabada - With 64 wickets in 36 innings and kneeling down the stronger Englishmen 20/6 recently, the 22-year old Kagiso Rabada will enter his first ICC 50-over tournament as the no. 1 bowler in the ICC ODI Bowling Rankings. Since claiming the best bowling figures by any bowler on ODI debut, Rabada hasn’t looked back. His pace, skill and uncanny talent will be treat to watch out for in the Champions Trophy.
Lasith Malinga - He has returned to the ODI scene for the first time since November 2015. His IPL form suggested that he is getting better and better. He sharing the new ball with Nuwan Kulasekera, a pair that has shared 242 wickets between them in 96 innings for Sri Lanka, will be make-or-break situation for the Lankan Lions. Their last match together was vs the same opposition in the World Cup 2015. Both of them two years older since and returning to the national side after various hiccups and injuries, it will be interesting to see if the duo can repeat their magic at the big stage.
Malinga has returned to the ODI scene for the first time since November 2015
Sri Lanka was battered 5-0 in their recent ODI series vs South Africa earlier this year.
Champions Trophy is the only ICC Trophy South Africa has ever won till date. They won’t mind lifting another one this year.
Hashim Amla became the quickest to 7000 ODI runs in his last ODI. He has also been the fastest to 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 ODI runs.