South Africa captain Faf du Plessis believes his team is where it needs to be but their Vision 2019 - of winning their first-ever 50-over World Cup - has now transcended formats. Cricket South Africa's national selection panel convener Linda Zondi earmarked the first T20I of the three-match series, starting on Tuesday (March 19), as part of the agenda for exploring options for the upcoming 50-over World Cup. With a major T20I tournament not in sight, the plan is not a bad idea.
Zondi confirmed Hashim Amla is still unavailable due to personal reasons, but there are quite a few big names in the squad for the first T20I who will be starters in England at the showpiece event.
World Cup is in the plans in the away dressing room too, but they've chosen a slightly different approach. Steve Rixon, who was recently appointed as the fielding coach of Sri Lanka, will now also be the 'acting head coach' of the team while the under-fire Chandika Hathurusinghe has returned to Sri Lanka to hatch plans for the showpiece event. This move comes after Sri Lanka suffered a complete annihilation at the hands of the hosts in the five-match ODI series, sullying their dream start to the tour with a Test series victory.
Sri Lanka come into the T20I rubber at the back of four defeats in last five T20Is, and in need of an immediate halt to the rut they've slipped into once more. The T20Is gives them a chance to prove that their resurgence in the Tests from a very tough period at the highest level wasn't a flash-in-the-pan occurrence.
When: South Africa vs Sri Lanka, 1st T20I, 6:00 PM Local Time
Where: Newlands, Cape Town
What to expect: A partly cloudy evening with a high of 21 degrees Celsius. South Africa and Sri Lanka played out a low scoring ODI at Newlands just two days ago, but the previous T20I in February had a lot of runs in it. Faf du Plessis's 45-ball 78 and Reeza Hendricks's 41-ball 74 helped South Africa score 192 - the highest-ever T20I total at the venue.
South Africa: Zondi also reckoned that with a view on the World Cup, the match squad is very similar to the one that played in the ODI series. Faf du Plessis and four other soon-to-be IPL-bound players Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi, as well as Dwaine Pretorius, are all part of the squad only for the first T20I and should feature in the game. Uncapped Aiden Markram makes his way into the T20 scheme of things, but remains to be seen if he gets a game straightaway.
Squad: Quinton de Kock (wk), Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dassen, JP Duminy, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga will have the experience of Suranga Lakmal in the bowling department, but Angelo Mathews remains sidelined with an injury. Danushka Gunathilaka, Dushmantha Chameera and Kusal Perera are all out with injuries, while leggie Jeffrey Vandersay has been drafted back in. There is quite a bit of inexperience in the squad as Asitha Fernando, Avishka Fernando and batsmen Priyamal Perera and Angelo Perera have been picked.
Squad: Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Perera, Kamindu Mendis, Thisara Perera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga (c), Asitha Fernando
Date & Time: Dec 1, 03:30 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 1, 07:30 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 2, 06:00 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 2, 02:40 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 2, 01:30 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 2, 06:30 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 3, 11:00 am LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 3, 12:00 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 3, 03:30 pm LOCAL
Date & Time: Dec 3, 07:30 pm LOCAL