Sri Lanka’s limited-overs skipper Dasun Shanaka, ahead of the three-match ODI series against South Africa, has thrown his weight behind the spinners and has claimed that the hosts can register a series win should the slower bowlers perform to their potential.
It was spin that ruled the roost for the Lankans in the closely contested ODI series against India in July, with Dananjaya, Jayawickrama and Hasaranga topping the wicket-taking charts for the hosts, claiming 9 wickets between them. The trio have been picked for the ODIs against the Proteas and, on top of that, the Lankan squad also features Kamindu Mendis and Morawakage Theekshana, both of whom are finger-spinners.
Speaking ahead of the first ODI in Colombo, Shanaka insisted that his side ‘should’ be able to win the series if the spinners fire.
"I think we have the winning momentum [following two T20I wins against India], and feel that if our spinners can get a lot of wickets, we should be able to win,” Shanaka said ahead of the first ODI, reported ESPN Cricinfo.
"We have a lot of advantages in this series. We have a lot of options on the spin front. We've got Wanindu Hasaranga (legspin), Akila Dananjaya (allsorts), Maheesh Theekshana (offspin), Ramesh Mendis (offspin), Praveen Jayawickrama (left-arm spin), and other options as well.
“They're all in a good rhythm. I'm looking to play three spinners in the team. South Africa always have a good pace attack. But I think I can guarantee that we have the better spin-bowling contingent at the moment. I trust our team's strength."
In contrast, the Proteas boast an attack that is completely different, with the visitors banking on the raw pace of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. The visitors do have the likes of Shamsi, Linde and Maharaj up their sleeves, but the Bavuma-led side are expected to field at least three seamers, all-rounders included.
Shanaka hoped for the slow wickets to nullify the Proteas seamers’ threat, and stressed on the need for the Lankan batters to not lose wickets against the new ball.
"They've got two very good fast bowlers in Rabada and Nortje, but in our conditions, we're hoping they won't be able to be as effective, because the pitches will be slow.
"Just because they are fast bowlers, that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best. You've also got to think about swing. I hope our batters can play them well. If we can bat out the first 10 overs without losing wickets, that's a big advantage. I think we can do that."
Placed 11th in the ODI Super League table, the three-match series is a must-win of sorts for the Lankans, who are in serious danger of not making it to the 2023 ODI World Cup. But despite having only racked up 2 wins in the ongoing Super League cycle thus far, Shanaka is confident of his side making a significant jump by the end of the ODI series against the Proteas.
"If we win these three matches, we can rise to fifth on the table. I'm confident we can do well and hope it will boost our chances for the World Cup."