x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Spinners set for leading role in Champions Trophy opener

South Africa and Sri Lanka are set to play two front line spinners in the opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA // South Africa and Sri Lanka are set to play two front line spinners apiece on what promises to be a turning wicket at Centurion Park for their Champions Trophy opener tomorrow. The hosts, the International Cricket Council's top-ranked one-day team, have off-spinner Johan Botha and left-armer Roelof van der Merwe while Sri Lanka will counter with off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and the unorthodox Ajantha Mendis.

"In the last year-and-a-half, Johan Botha has become one of the best one-day bowlers in the game and he's an integral part of our team. He and Roelof make a good combination," the South Africa captain Graeme Smith said. "Murali has troubled a lot of teams and he has an incredible record, but it will be interesting to see how Sri Lanka fit both him and Mendis into their combination. "But our record speaks for itself on how we have played spin around the world in the last few years and we have some good ideas about Mendis. Other teams have been very aggressive against him and that seems like a good tactic."

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said his side had a potent bowling attack that did not rely solely on spin to create problems for batsmen. "We have two of the best spinners in the game, one of them the best ever (Muralitharan), but we also have good fast bowlers, who are regularly bowling over 140 kph, and the all-rounders. "The batsmen are on form, the bowlers are all firing well, so we just need to produce some match-winning performances," Sangakkara said.

Hashim Amla is set to replace injured South African opener Herschelle Gibbs, who strained a rib muscle trying to avoid a straight drive by Smith in a warm-up match against West Indies on Friday. The Champions Trophy features the world's top eight teams, split into two groups of four. The top two in each group progress to the semi-finals. The final is at Centurion on October 5. * Reuters