Proteas up against it

2013-07-23 00:00

AB de Villiers and the Proteas face a stern test of character in Colombo at 11 am today as they take on Sri Lanka in the second of five one-day internationals.

The match will test their ability to come back, rather than what they can produce on the field after Saturday’s 180-run defeat, a debacle that still has South African cricket fans reeling.

It was the Proteas’ second heaviest defeat of all time, but skipper De Villiers is confident his charges will perfect the basics after Saturday’s torture.

The match is at the same venue, the R Premadasa stadium and, to add more mental challenges to the Protea mindset, on the same pitch that saw 82 overs in the first match.

Although the Protea bowlers conceded a massive 320 runs — 137 in the last 12 — De Villiers said the key areas for improvement were building batting partnerships, discipline with the ball and sharpness in the field. In essence, the Proteas need to erase Saturday’s performance and start from scratch.

Speaking ahead of today’s match, De Villiers said, “I think the boys have learnt from their mistakes. Without making excuses, it was hot out there in the first game, something many of the players could not adapt to. This time around, I pray they know what to expect and adjust accordingly.”

The Proteas skipper still backed his two frontline spinners, Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso, who bowled 14 overs between them on Saturday, taking 1-80.

“They may not have taken wickets, but they offer a variation in our attack,” he said. “They can take wickets and are good against left handers. Phangiso was good against Sangakkara (169) at the death, and he and Robin have the skill to adapt to certain batsmen. JP Duminy is another option and although a part-timer, is key to our plans.”

Opener Alviro Petersen knows his task at the top of the order and has a vital role to play in setting a decent platform to launch an attack.

“Having played on the strip, I think we are wiser on what to expect and how to play shots,” he said. “The Sri Lankans have a strong bowling attack as they showed on Saturday, with Lasith Malinga key.”

Malinga bowled Colin Ingram with the first ball of the South African innings in the first match, a fast, straight yorker that would have had many batsmen in trouble.

“He bowls full and straight and knows the conditions and how to use them to his advantage,” said Petersen. “We need to keep him at bay, see him off and keep wickets in hand. The middle period of the innings is also crucial as that is when we need to create partnerships without giving away wickets.”

Hashim Amla, who missed the first match with a stiff neck, is making progress and enjoyed a light net session yesterday.

A final call on his selection will be made ahead of today’s match.

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