Sydney, Mar 17: Stage is all set for knockout phase for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 where first quarter final match will be played between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Sydney Cricket Ground. The 'Lankan Tigers' who are the most consistent performers in the ICC event will be locking horns with 'Perennial Chokers' SA, who have never made it to the world cup finals.
Hence it will be a tough test for AB deVilliers and his men to break the jinx but if one looks at the topsy-turvy journey of the 'Proteas' then they do not emerge as the favourites.
The two teams have so far played 59 matches, out of which SL has won 29 while SA won on 28 occasions. In the World Cup the teams have locked horns 4 times out of which SA turned victorious on 2 occasions while SL won just one match. One contest resulted in a tie.
Given the kind of form the two teams are in, Angelo Mathews men are looking more balanced than AB deVilliers & Co.
Here are 5 reasons why passing 'Lanka test' is not going to be easy for the Proteas:
SA shouldn't forget Sri Lanka's expertise at ICC event
If there is any team that is most consistent in the ICC events its Sri Lanka. The World Champion of 1996, the team has always been a dangerous opponent to the rivals which has defeated every side on its day.
Sri Lanka has been a finalist in last two ICC Worlds Cups in 2007 and 2011 respectively. Not only in ODIs the Lankan side has also performed exceptionally well in the T20 World Cups and Champions Trophies. They are the current T20 champion after beating tournament favourites 'Men In Blue'.
While South Africa never got the opportunity to make it to the World Cup finals, the only ICC event it won was the Champions Trophy, that too in the year 1998. One the other hand Sri Lanka has been performing exceptionally well in the ICC events.
In-form Sangakara's going to be big reason to worry for SA
If there is any player whom any team fears in this World Cup, then it has to be Kumar Sangakara. The left-handed Lankan batter is not only the highest run getter of the tournament but his world record of 4 back to back centuries is more than enough to bulldoze the morale on any bowler.
Its not just 'scintillating' Sanga who's bat is blazing runs for his side, even team mate Dilshan, who has hit 2 tons in the tournament so far, looks in sublime form too. Sri Lanka's middle order is also rising to the occasion whenever the team needs.
Who can forget the exploits of Dinesh Chandimal in the previous encounter against Australia. The wicket-keeper batsman, with his unbeaten knock of 52, had almost brought the match in Sri Lanka's hands if he wasn't retired hurt.
Sydney's pitch favours Sri Lanka
The pitch at the SCG also favours spinners and Sri Lanka has quality spin bowlers as compared to their South African counterparts, hence the side is going to have an edge over Proteas here.
If one looks at the performance of the South African batters in the tournament so far then they haven't scored runs against spinners. It was the disciplined spin bowling by the Indians that bowled out a formidable South African squad at a paltry score of 177.
Over reliance on skipper AB deVilliers, poor batting
South Africa so far has only seen AB DeVilliers' show, barring skipper no other batsman in the side has contributed with the bat on crucial occasions. The team, which was once looking as the top contender for the title, has displayed a below average performance so far. Especially in games against India and Pakistan, both teams from Indian sub-continent, DeVilliers and Co was beaten ruthlessly. The defeat against Pakistan would have certainly dented their morale.
This shows Proteas' batsmen in the tournament are relying too much on their skipper. Even team's most trusted man Hashim Amla has not delivered as per the expectations and this is a big reason to worry for the side. The opening has been a concern for the side, for opener Quinton de Kock has produced just 53 runs in 6 innings.
'Steyn'-gun has failed to fire
SA arrived in Australia banking heavily over its most dangerous and in-form bowler, Dale Steyn, but the 'Steyn-gun' hasn't blazed fire so far. Steyn's below par performance has also played a crucial role in side's dismal show. Even others have also not delivered as expected for South Africa.
While Sri Lankan bowlers, despite being not that fiery, have delivered as a team. Though, Australia made a mincemeat of Lankan pacers and posted a whopping 376, so their morale would be slightly low. Thus, it is the only silver lining for the Proteas, but it will be a different side and a different day for the Lankan bowlers and if they got DeVilliers and Amla early, then there's no stopping Lanka.