The first quarter-final between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Sydney will see some exceptional talent on display from both sides. This is why the encounter is expected to be extremely well-matched, and could produce some scintillating cricket. Sri Lanka would be particularly keen to do well since one defeat would bring to the end the one-day careers of legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. And so, as the teams get set to go into battle mode, a look at five key players who could have a massive impact on the bearing of the game.
Kumar Sangakkara: Without doubt, all eyes would be on the Sri Lankan veteran, who has scored hundreds in all his last four knocks. Except for the ton against Australia all his hundreds have come in winning causes. It goes without saying that he would be keen to extend his record-breaking spree. Another hundred from Sangakkara would definitely set up a place for Lanka in the semis, with support from the rest. The standout aspect of Sangakkara's success in this World Cup has been that not only has been scored big runs, but has done so at a fast pace while playing proper cricketing strokes.
AB de Villiers: It is difficult to describe how well the South African captain has batted in the World Cup. He clearly has been on another planet. The century he got against West Indies was reminiscent of his record-breaking fastest ODI ton against the same opponent some months earlier. It goes without saying that when de Villiers hits it, the ball stays hit. How heavily reliant South Africa have been on their skipper has been evident from the fact that they faltered against India following his run out, and it was only de Villiers who stood up in the losing cause against Pakistan.
Dale Steyn: He may not be in the best of form, but great players often rise to the occasion. Sri Lanka have a dominating batting line-up with Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirrimane in fantastic form. Angelo Mathews has shown some fire as well while Mahela Jayawardene would be itching for a big score. To thwart such an impressive batting line up, South Africa's pace spearhead will have to step up. Steyn vs Sangakkara, of all others, promises to be a mouth-watering battle.
Lasith Malinga: Like Steyn, Sri Lanka's pace spearhead too hasn't been on top of his game. But, he definitely showed signs of returning to his effective ways against Australia. His wickets came with well deceived deliveries. Also, South Africa would know at the back of their minds that Malinga almost blew them away single-handedly back in 2007. He would be keen to build on that psychological edge he holds against the Proteas. Just like Sanga vs Steyn, Malinga vs AB could be the other defining battle of the match.
Rilee Rossouw: The fifth name was a tough choice since there were so many options -- Jayawardene, Thirimanne, Mathews, Morkel, Amla, du Plessis and Tahir. But, we have gone with Rossouw since he has proved to be the joker in the pack in this South African batting line-up. Before de Villiers smashed the West Indians all over the park, it was Rossouw who began the carnage. He repeated the act in a couple of other matches. When he gets his act right, Rossouw can be unstoppable. Lanka must be alert.
--By A Cricket Analyst