DURBAN - Having scored a stunning come-from-behind series win in the Twenty20 Internationals, Sri Lanka was brought thudding back to earth in the first One-Day International by a formidable South African outfit in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. How quickly the visiting side recovers mentally from that eight-wicket drubbing will go a long way towards ensuring it draws level in the second game of five at Kingsmead in Durban on Wednesday).

The 2-1 victory in the T20I series went a little way towards making up for the 0-3 loss in the preceding Test series, but Upul Tharanga’s men again fell well short at St George’s Park. Missing Angelo Mathews, the regular skipper, through an ankle injury sustained in the second T20I, Sri Lanka’s batting once again came unstuck by South Africa through the leg-spin of Imran Tahir and the left-arm swing at pace of Wayne Parnell.

Only Kusal Mendis offered any resistance worth the name with a steady 62, but the rest crumbled around him. For Sri Lanka to remain competitive against a cracking good outfit that has been fortified by the return from injury of AB de Villiers, the experienced hands in the middle order, Dinesh Chandimal and Tharanga himself, must make substantial contributions.

Sri Lanka’s long tour has been characterised by repeated batting meltdowns even as its bowlers have held their own. With the end of the tour imminent, the batsmen must necessarily rouse themselves and give a good account.

Commendable as the T20I series win was, Sri Lanka achieved that against an under-strength South Africa that had rested several first-choice players and fielded a new captain in Farhaan Behardien. With the big guns all back for the ODIs in preparation for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England and Wales in the summer, Sri Lanka’s task has become all the more difficult. The promise that Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva and  Niroshan Dickwella have shown at various stages has to mushroom into something more substantial for the bowlers to have something of a target to defend, though against a South African attack headlined by Kagiso Rabada and Tahir, that is perhaps easier said than done.

The presence of Nuwan Kulasekara lends massive experience to Sri Lanka’s bowling, which was taken apart in the last game by the South African top four.


SOUTH AFRICA: AB de Villiers (capt), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Farhaan Behardien, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi.

SRI LANKA: Upul Tharanga (capt), Niroshan Dickwella, Sandun Weerakkody, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwal Kulasekara, Jeffrey Vandersay, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan, Chaturanga de Silva, Thikshila de Silva, Lahiru Madushanka, Sachith Pathirana, Isuru Udana, Seekkuge Prasanna.