Johannesburg – The Cricket World Cup looms large for both South Africa and Sri Lanka when they meet in a five-match one-day international series starting at the Wanderers on Sunday.
While South Africa will be keen to get back to winning form after shock losses to the Lankans in two home Tests, both teams appear to be undecided on their best 15 players for the World Cup in England and Wales, starting in May.
The Proteas have picked a 14-man squad packed with bowlers for the first three internationals, indicating the matches could help decide their best bowling combinations for the World Cup, while Sri Lanka have a squad of 17 players, two more than they can take to the global event.
Both teams have moderate recent records. South Africa have won 12 and lost 10 matches since the start of 2018, while Sri Lanka have six wins, 13 losses and a no-result in the same period.
Sri Lanka lost all three matches in New Zealand last month after veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga was appointed captain.
South Africa’s one-day squad includes only five of the players who appeared in the Tests and Sri Lanka have retained only seven of the victorious Test team – but Sri Lanka’s Test wins are sure to add spice to the series despite the change in format and likely conditions.
South Africa will welcome a return to the faster pitches of Johannesburg and Centurion, venue of the second match, after losing the Test matches on the slower surfaces of Durban and Port Elizabeth, where the third and fourth matches will be played.
Fast bowlers Lungi Ngidi and uncapped Anrich Nortje, both recovered after long-term injuries, could provide a challenge to the Sri Lankan batsmen, while veteran Dale Steyn will be keen to show that he is still worth a World Cup place.
The South African selectors will be monitoring the fitness of JP Duminy, regarded as a key player if South Africa are to challenge at the World Cup.
He was due to return to domestic cricket with the Cape Cobras on Friday after missing most of the season because of a shoulder injury.
Duminy was not picked for the first three one-day internationals but it is hoped he will play in the last two matches.
Sri Lanka’s squad has been bolstered by the inclusion of experienced players Malinga, Upul Tharanga and Thisara Perera who did not play in the Tests.
Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Rassie van der Dussen
Lasith Malinga (captain), Niroshan Dickwella (vice-captain, wicketkeeper), Akila Dananjaya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Kamindu Mendis, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Perera, Kusal Perera, Priyamal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Upul Tharanga, Isuru Udana
March 3, Johannesburg
March 6, Centurion
March 10, Durban
March 13, Port Elizabeth
March 16, Cape Town