Colombo - As the teams head from Colombo to the mountainous, lush and cool settings of Pallekele for what could essentially be the series decider, both teams will surely be under immense pressure: Angelo Mathews' men would not want to lose a series at home in front of thousands of passionate fans and the Proteas would be desperate to reverse their fortunes in the subcontinent.
Add the small matter of the series winner progressing up the ODI rankings to the equation, and a mouthwatering contest certainly beckons. On the back of Sri Lanka's successful tour of England, the media had painted a bleak picture for AB de Villiers' men ahead of this series, however, Sri Lanka captain Mathews was under no illusions. "We can't become complacent against the South Africans," he reminded the local media prior to the start of the series. "The England series is past now. We've got to move on and play good cricket to beat the South Africans."
South Africa leads the three-match ODI series 1-0 after their victory in Colombo over the weekend, and are just one victory away from securing their first-ever ODI series victory in these parts. More importantly for the Proteas and their fans, is the reassuring sight of South African batsmen and bowlers excelling in conditions they have historically struggled to overcome, and their showing at the Premadasa in the first ODI deserved praise.
Praise for their efforts however did not come from all quarters, and it did not go unnoticed. "The bemused local press contingent dug up all manner of reasons to try to explain South Africa’s emphatic start to the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka on Sunday," wrote South African sports columnist Lungani Zama on the website iol.co.za.
"First it was the light, or lack thereof, which forced Kumar Sangakkara to strike out in a belated bid to get in touch with the Duckworth/Lewis target. Then it was the decision review system, which was against Sri Lanka for the major decisions. "The time may yet come when they throw a compliment towards the Proteas. But it was left to the home skipper to reiterate that they were up against a quality outfit who had executed their plans well."
And indeed Mathews was quick to acknowledge his side's poor showing and the tourists' praiseworthy performance, and assured Sri Lankan journalists at the post-match media stakeout that there was no need to panic. "It's just one game and we played poorly. We can turn things around," he said. The second ODI, which is a day-night affair, will take place in Pallekele on July 9.