World Cup: Sri Lanka and South Africa do battle in first quarter-final

Cricket World Cup Trophy

After several weeks of group matches, the 2015 cricket World Cup has finally reached the knockout stage.

The first of the four quarter-finals - between South Africa and Sri Lanka from 0330 GMT tomorrow in Sydney - is perhaps the most difficult to call.

Both sides have shown unpredictable form in the tournament to date. South Africa came into the event as one of the favourites but have recorded losses to India and Pakistan. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have lost to both host nations Australia and New Zealand. The Proteas also have the added, and much discussed burden, of never having a won a knockout match in a World Cup due to their propensity to 'choke' on the big stage.

Strengths and weaknesses:

South Africa's strength has usually been their pace bowling, but it hasn't completely fired so far, with Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell all enduring more than their fair share of off days. They remain, though, a potent attack and Steyn, in particular, will be desperate to make a match-winning contribution. Imran Tahir has been very effective as lead spinner, although the absence of a proper fifth bowler could yet hurt them.

AB de Villiers is an obvious strength in the batting department and is arguably the best batsman in ODI cricket at present. There is a belief among some, however, that the batting line-up remains overly reliant on their captain. Quinton de Kock is out of form, while Hashim Amla and JP Duminy have yet to find their best.

Sri Lanka's main strength has to be Kumar Sangakkara. He has managed a century in each of his last four matches and it is astonishing to think that tomorrow's match could be his last in the format if Sri Lanka lose. Mahela Jayawardene is also bringing down the curtain on his ODI career and will be desperate to extend it by a couple more games.

Rangana Herath's possible absence due to a finger injury would be a big blow for Sri Lanka, especially as the SCG is usually one of the more spin-friendly pitches in Australia. Doubts remain over the pace bowling and with the number six spot.

Conditions:

If Sri Lanka could have picked a venue in Australia for such a crunch game then it would probably have been the SCG. It is expected to be dry and possibly aid the spinners. The overhead conditions will be warm, with temperatures peaking as high as 30 degrees Celsius. There is a small chance of rain, particularly in the afternoon.

Team news:

Faf du Plessis missed the match against UAE with a back injury but will be back at number three, meaning that Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien face a straight shoot-out for the remaining spot in the middle-order. Neither Wayne Parnell nor Kyle Abbott are likely to get a look-in in the bowling attack, with the familiar quartet preferred.

Probable XI: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), JP Duminy, David Miller, Rilee Rossouw, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

Herath's possible absence is the headline news for Sri Lanka. He has been rated only as '50-50' to play and, should he not make it, Seekkuge Prasanna is favourite to take his place. The other selection quandaries include a battle between Kushal Perera and Upul Tharanga for the number six spot and the possibility of playing an extra spinner in Sachithra Senanayake or one of the seamers Dushmantha Chameera or Suranga Lakmal.

Possible XI: Lahiru Thirimanne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wicket-keeper), Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews (captain), Kushal Perera, Thisara Perera. Seekkuge Prasanna/Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal.

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