| South Africa’s Makhaya Ntini (left) and Fidel Edwards of the West Indies share a light moment during practice in Ahmedabad on Monday
Ahmedabad: Those ruing the fact that the Champions Trophy is yet to take off on a high after six matches need to sit back and relax. Tuesday’s contest offers an exciting prospect that could go down to the wire.
The setting seems perfect at the refurbished Motera, on the outskirts of the city. The days of disappointment — the tournament failing to witness tall scores and stirring chases — might just be over as the wicket promises to offer a run feast.
The patta pitch, as curator Dhiraj Parsanna will make us believe, should not provide the uneven bounce that has made strokeplayers hesitant. The dew factor, though, is likely to play its part here, too.
“This seems like a good pitch… Hopefully it will produce some good cricket,” said Graeme Smith.
Mahela Jayawardene seemed more forthcoming. “The pitch will afford spinners, but can’t gauge to what extent… All pitches in this part of the world tend to do so. We will have the luxury of having some part-time spinners in our ranks. We’ve played here versus Zimbabwe during the qualifying and it did turn,” the Lankan captain said.
Smith, however, urged his players to get acclimatised with the conditions at the earliest. As he put it: “Adapting to the conditions is the key to success in this tournament… Whether you bowl first or bat first, you’ve got to be able to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible.”
A victory will more or less assure Lanka of a semi-final spot while it will mean curtains for the South Africans. “This is more like a quarter final. We don’t want to put our destiny in others’ hands,” Jayawardene said.
Jayawardene’s aggressive instincts have rubbed off well on the team and the right blend of youth and experience has worked wonders. The Muttiah Muralidharan factor has also worked wonders. Smith was quick to acknowledge the fact.
“Sri Lanka are probably the in-form team in the tournament… They have played four qualifying games,” the South African captain said.
“We would love to have Murali or Warne… Any team in the world would want to have the match-winner of their calibre… we have got young spinners and we are backing them to do well. Our strength has always been our seam bowling.
That the South Africans are dwelling on the Murali factor was evident in coach Mickey Arthur’s words: “The variety in Sri Lanka’s bowling makes our task tougher. Looking at Murali’s performance, we know it’s going to be a big challenge.
True, Murali did the star turn against New Zealand, but it will be naïve to ignore Sanath Jayasuriya’s allround abilities. The joy of seeing his new-born son might just inspire him to bigger deeds. South Africa are also thinking of ringing in a few changes. AB de Villiers may come in place of Andrew Hall.
Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Maravan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas, Fervez Mahroof, Muttiah Muralidharan, Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga, Malinga Bandara, Ruchira Perera, Chamara Kapugedera.
South Africa (from): Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Boeta Dippenaar, Justin Kemp, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Charl Langeveldt, Robin Peterson, Loots Bosman.
Umpires: Daryl Harper and Simon Taufel.
TV: Aleem Dar.
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.
Match starts at 2.30 pm.