Sri Lanka are eager to regain some pride after a dismal Test series when they start the limited-overs section of their tour with the first of three Twenty20 internationals on Friday (20).
They will face an inexperienced South African team in the T20 series before playing the hosts in five one-day internationals.
“Hopefully we can start afresh,” said Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews after a 3-0 Test series whitewash which he said was the worst defeat of his captaincy.
“We have some fresh faces in the T20 team and hopefully we can beat South Africa. We have still got a long way to go in South Africa so we need to keep our heads high.”
All three Tests were played on pitches designed to help South Africa’s fast bowlers, but the tourists can look forward to more batsmen-friendly pitches, starting at SuperSport Park in Centurion this week.
Sri Lanka will also be relieved not to face Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, the bowlers most responsible for their destruction in the Tests.
Left-arm fast bowler Wayne Parnell is the only current Test player in a South African T20 squad which includes five international newcomers.
Faf du Plessis, the Test and regular T20 captain, is among those rested, with batsman Farhaan Behardien taking over the captaincy.
“I understand that people would like to see the Proteas with their strongest team,” said du Plessis.
“But the vision looking forward is that with the importance of certain formats coming up in the next six to eight months, right now T20 is not as important as one-dayers and Test cricket, so it is important to give guys some time to rest.”
South Africa are expected to be at full-strength for the one-day internationals as both teams work towards the Champions Trophy in England in June.
Sri Lanka’s recent record in T20 internationals is not encouraging.
Since beating Afghanistan in their first match of the World T20 in India last March, they have lost their most recent six matches.
They retain six of their Test squad, including talented young batsmen Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva, who will be hoping to show their skills in more benign conditions than they endured in the Tests.
South Africa have not played a T20 international since defeating Sri Lanka in their last match of an otherwise disappointing World T20 campaign in March.
Behardien, David Miller, Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso are the only members of the current squad who played in that tournament, although AB de Villiers is expected to strengthen the squad for the last match in Cape Town.
Both teams have yet to announce their one-day international squads.
T20 international squads:
South Africa: Farhaan Behardien (captain), Theunis de Bruyn, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heino Kuhn, David Miller, Mangaliso Mosehle (wkt), Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Aaron Phangiso, Andile Phehlukwayo, Jon-Jon Smuts, AB de Villiers (for third match only).
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal (wkt), Dhananjaya de Silva, Thikshila de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Mendis, Sachith Pathirana, Nuwan Pradeep, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana.
January 20, First T20 international, Centurion
January 22, Second T20 international, Johannesburg
January 25, Third T20 international, Cape Town
January 28, First one-day international, Port Elizabeth
February 1, Second one-day international, Durban
February 4, Third one-day international, Johannesburg
February 7, Fourth one-day international, Cape Town
February 10, Fifth one-day international, Centurion