Gibbs' absence a blow for S Africa

Graeme Smith’s men, the top-ranked one-day team in the world, will be without influential opener Herschelle Gibbs, who strained an inter-costal muscle during Friday’s warm-up game against the West Indies, but the captain believes there is enough quality in the ranks not to worry too much about the loss of his regular opening partner.

Having played the eternal bridesmaid in their own backyard, South Africa approach the Champions Trophy with a quiet confidence stemming from familiarity with conditions as well as heightened levels of fitness, evidenced by the weight loss so obvious on star all-rounder Jacques Kallis and wicketkeeper-batsman Mark Boucher.

The Proteas haven’t played a competitive game since bowing out in the semifinals of the World T20 in England in the third week of June, but Smith didn’t appear unduly worried either at that prospect – ‘We’ll wait and see if that is a good thing or not’ – or at entering the event in front of home fans with the pressure of being the number one team in the world. “We’ve worked hard for it, it is a privilege,” said Smith, adding that Hashim Amla would replace Gibbs in the eleven.

Sri Lanka are coming off a hectic last couple of months involving Test series at home against Pakistan and New Zealand, a one-day series against the former and a tri-series that ended only last week with defeat in the finals at the hands of India. The Lankans lost to Pakistan in Friday’s warm-up game and defeated the West Indies on Sunday, but Kumar Sangakkara wasn’t fazed by the loss.

“Our record in warm-up games is pretty abysmal but we seem to pick ourselves up for the important games,” observed the Sri Lankan skipper, whose big headache will be how to fit both Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis in the playing eleven.

“South Africa are playing at home and are the top side in the world, so all the pressure will be on them,” added Sangakkara, beginning the mind-games in right earnest. Which Smith countered with, “Passing the buck is what all international captains do these days.” May the fun and games begin!

Teams (from):
South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Mark Boucher, Roelof van der Merwe, Johan Botha, Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell, Makhaya Ntini, Albie Morkel, Robin Peterson, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Thushara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Dammika Prasad, Upul Tharanga.
Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Ian Gould (England). Third umpire: Steve Davis (Australia). Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand).

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