Champions Trophy: Lanka to take on Proteas in first Group B encounter
London [UK], June 3 (ANI): Sri Lanka will today take on South Africa in the first Group B match of the Champions Trophy at the Oval, London.
Considered to be the 'underdogs' in the group, Sri Lanka will most likely play without their captain Angelo Mathews who is nursing a calf injury.
A joint-winner in 2002, the Lankan tigers have only reached the semi-final stage once since, getting to the last four in the 2013 edition, also in England.
Sri Lanka has struggled of late, and not just against South Africa. Since the start of 2016, Sri Lanka has played 27 ODIs, winning seven and losing 15.
Apart from the series sweep by South Africa, Sri Lanka played out a tied series at home against Bangladesh, and its most disappointing performance came when it lost to Scotland in a practice match leading up to the Champions Trophy.
Sri Lanka also lost both its warm-up games, to Australia and New Zealand.
In a pool also featuring India, Pakistan and South Africa, Mathews has already admitted his team are being seen as an outsider to lift the trophy, but is confident Sri Lanka has the firepower to make a run at the title.
On the other hand, Proteas, who are coming into the tournament after suffering a series loss against England, will look to come out with a much improved performance and live up to the expectations which people have from the number one ranked side.
The AB de Villiers -led side slumped to a 1-2 defeat to England in the three-match ODI series after two closes match went the hosts' way while they were humbled in the final game.
In the third ODI, South Africa's bowlers, especially Kagiso Rabada, wreaked havoc on England as Eoin Morgan's side were reduced to 20 for 6 after just five overs before being bowled out for 153. The Proteas eventually went on to win the final match by seven wickets.
Skipper AB de Villiers has already insisted that he is satisfied with his team's preparation for the Champions Trophy and are ready to take up the challenge.
The Proteas will be heading into the contest as firm favourites, having won their last seven consecutive ODIs against Sri Lanka, including a 5-0 whitewash earlier in 2017.
The last time South Africa took on Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy was in 2009 in Centurion and Sri Lanka notched up a 55-run win.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Upul Tharanga (vice-capt), Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock(w), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers(c), Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel (ANI)