Sri Lanka will be looking for a consistent performance from their top players as they leave for South Africa today in preparation for the sixth edition of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy limited overs cricket tournament which will be staged from September 22 to October 5.
All matches will be split between two venues Centurion and The Wanderers with the top ranked eight teams in the world - Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, host South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies - divided into two pools of four, with the top two from each pool progressing to the semi-final stage.
In fact Sri Lanka will take on South Africa in the curtain raiser match of the tournament a day night fixture on September 22 at the Centurion. Their other group B matches are against England on September 25 and New Zealand on September 27. The Group A comprise of Australia, India, Pakistan and West Indies.
Sri Lanka are also scheduled to play two warm up matches against Pakistan and the West Indies on September 18 and 20 respectively. Meanwhile the title holders Australia begins their defence of its ICC Champions Trophy crown on September 26 (Saturday) against the West Indies in a repeat of the 2006 final.
As more prize money is at stake than ever before the players emphasis this event is all about champion players in nation versus nation action, with honour and prestige. Sri Lanka of course failed to reach the semi-finals at the previous event and will be hoping for an improved performance.
Even then Sri Lanka could certainly take heart from their recent performances at home where they defeated Pakistan 3-2 and then narrowly missed out the chance of winning the Compaq Cup Tri Series final against India.
In addition the team has proved that they have the potential to perform well at major events having emerged runners up to Pakistan at the recent ICC Twnety20 World Cup in England.
The ICC Champions Trophy is an elite event for the top eight nations in the ICC One Day International Rankings. The event, formerly known as the ICC Knockout, has been held five times and has been won by a different side on each occasion.
The winners of the competition include South Africa (1998), New Zealand (2000), Sri Lanka and India (2002), who were the joint winners after the final was washed-out, West Indies (2004) and Australia (2006). The tournament has been staged in Bangladesh (1998), Kenya (2000), Sri Lanka (2002), England (2004) and India (2006).
The Sri Lanka team: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardena, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Kapegedera, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thilan Thushara Mirando, Thilina Kandamby, Dhammika Prasad, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga.
Follow the Sri Lanka team in South Africa.
(Warm up matches): September 18 - v Pakistan (d/n) at Willowmoore Park, Benoni September 20 - v West Indies (d) at LC de Villiers Oval, Pretoria (ICC Champions Trophy): September 22 - v South Africa (d/n) at Centurion September 25 - v England (d/n) at The Wanderers September 27 - v New Zealand (d) at The Wanderers October 2 - 1st semifinal (d/n) at Centurion October 3 - 2nd semi-final (d/n) at The Wanderers October 5 - Final at Centurion.