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De Kock could punish depleted Lankans

South Africa opener ready to cash in at The Oval

South Africa’s Quinton de Kock could sparkle at Diamond Oval
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Champions Trophy Group B
Sky Sports 2, 10.30am Saturday

Sri Lanka reached the last four of the 2013 Champions Trophy but since then they have struggled to fill the void left by the retirements of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who scored 37,174 ODI runs between them. 

They defeated England and Australia at The Oval four years ago but their chances of victory over South Africa at the Vauxhall venue have been seriously dented by an injury to Angelo Mathews.

The captain is a key batsman for the Lankans, top-scoring with 95 in their warm-up defeat to Australia, and his nagging medium pace is a useful weapon in 50-over cricket.

Mathews’ absence will be keenly felt against a South Africa side who are number one in the ODI rankings, boosted by a 5-0 drubbing of Sri Lanka this year.

The Proteas demolished England at Lord’s in their last outing (and should have won the second match at the Rose Bowl, where they needed seven off seven balls with five wickets in hand yet lost by two runs).

While Lankan fans are still lamenting the loss of Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, the Proteas have great batting power with openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock laying the foundation for the brutal brilliance of AB de Villiers.

Their quick bowlers reduced England to 20-6 inside five overs on a cloudy morning at Lord’s and, while batting conditions should be far better south of the Thames, Sri Lanka’s top order is vulnerable against the new ball.

Best bet
Openers Tamim Iqbal (128) and Alex Hales (95) cashed in for Bangladesh and England on a good batting wicket at The Oval on Thursday and De Kock could do likewise for South Africa.

Australia opener Aaron Finch punished Sri Lanka’s bowlers in a warm-up fixture at the venue, hitting 137 off 109 deliveries, and the Lankans will be desperate for early wickets.

De Kock stroked a brisk 98 against England on a flat deck at the Rose Bowl and the Group B clash with Sri Lanka looks a great opportunity for the eye-catching left-hander to enhance his superb record of 12 centuries in just 82 50-over innings.

His last ton came in his most recent innings against Sri Lanka, – 109 off 87 balls at Centurion in February – and he merits a bet at 8-1 to be man of the match.

South Africa are as short as 2-9 to win the match, with the inspirational Mathews likely to be missing for the Lankans, and The Oval has been a batting paradise in recent one-dayers.

Kusal Mendis is 7-2 favourite to top-score for the underdogs but the 22-year-old made just 116 runs in five ODI innings against the Proteas in South Africa.

Recommendation
Q de Kock to be man of the match
1pt 8-1 Betfred, Hills


Match facts
Venue
There wasn’t much in the pitch for the bowlers during England’s win over Bangladesh at The Oval on Thursday – the tenth time in the last 13 ODIs there that the side batting second had won.

The last three one-dayers at Surrey’s home ground, including the Lankans’ six-wicket defeat to England last year, featured six 300-plus totals.

Team news
Sri Lanka captain Mathews is set to miss out with a calf injury so Upul Tharanga will lead the side in the skipper’s absence.

Morne Morkel played his first ODI in 11 months against England at Lord’s but Wayne Parnell could be preferred to the paceman.

Weather
Cloudy start, brightening up later in the day, 21C.

While Lankan fans are still lamenting the loss of Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, the Proteas have great batting power
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