wily sri lankans to test sa

THERE are bound to be nerves in the Proteas change-room ahead of today's opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy against Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

THERE are bound to be nerves in the Proteas change-room ahead of today's opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy against Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

It's been a three-month break since the team last saw competitive action, with last Friday's friendly against the West Indies nothing more than a loosener.

Though captain Graeme Smith, who scored 83, top-order batsman Jacques Kallis (86) and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher appeared to be in good form against the Windies, taking on the unpredictable Sri Lankans will be a definite step up.

The Asians have had a decent run of late, making the final of a recent ODI competition involving New Zealand and India plus finishing as runners-up in the World T20 final in England earlier this year.

The Proteas would have gained a lot of confidence following their Test and ODI success in Australia but their disappointing early exit at the T20 after defeat to Pakistan once again highlighted their inability to perform at critical moments.

It's an ideal opportunity for the local side to add some silverware to a bare cabinet as knowledge of local conditions could prove decisive.

With Herschelle Gibbs ruled out of today's clash with bruised ribs, pressure will fall on Smith and fellow Test opener Hashim Amla to provide a positive start.

Having lost weight in the past few months, Kallis looks in ideal shape to trouble the tourists with his stylish batting and his nagging medium-pace bowling.

Right-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe also looks likely to play a major role if the Proteas are to have any chance of advancing to the next round.

The Titans all-rounder will be looking at tying up an end with fellow spinner Johan Botha.

But Sri Lanka are a wily old bunch.

Any side that possesses the talent of Thilan Thushara, Lasith Malinga and spin kings Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis needs to be treated with respect.

l The game starts at 2.30pm and the action will be televised live on SABC2 and SuperSport 2.

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