SOUTH Africa beat the Black Caps here yesterday, but may have lost one of their key players in the process. Albie Morkel, whose allround skills will be crucial for the Proteas in the Twenty20 World Cup, was injured in the warm-up match against the New Zealanders in Colombo.
Morkel suffered lower-back spasms while batting in South Africa's nine-run win in which Dale Steyn took four wickets and a new opening partnership might have clicked.
Morkel received treatment last night, but it will be clear only today if he will be fit for the first match of the tournament, against Zimbabwe in Hambantota on Thursday.
The 31-year-old strained his back while clubbing 15 not out from four balls in an impressive innings of 186 for six. He took the field but bowled only nine balls.
"He [Morkel] first felt the pain when he hit the six while he was batting, but he thought that it was something minor," team manager Mohammed Moosajee said. "He aggravated it while he was bowling and came off as a precautionary measure to receive treatment. We will see how he does overnight. If he doesn't improve substantially by tomorrow [this] morning he will have to have an MRI scan."
Morkel had been expected to be in the starting line-up for Thursday's Group C match.
South Africa ticked most of the boxes in yesterday's warm-up match against the Black Caps.
Not too much can be read into a fixture where South Africa used 13 players to New Zealand's 11 but it did serve the purpose of trying out a few options.
Richard Levi and Faf du Plessis opened the batting to give the pair some batting time. Both have struggled for form but yesterday they displayed glimpses of finding it. Both made 24 off 20 balls and South Africa have indicated they may want to use Du Plessis as opener at some stage.
Captain AB de Villiers was full value for his dashing 54 in 30 balls while JP Duminy looked good for 30.
Farhaan Behardien scored 24 not out (off 12 balls).
Some of the bowlers came under the whip during a dominating innings of 75 (42 balls) by Ross Taylor. This included seven sixes on the small Colts Cricket Club field in the heart of Sri Lanka's largest city.
New Zealand at one stage looked capable of chasing down the challenging total but a master-class with ball of four for 25 from trumpcard Dale Steyn helped keep them at bay.
"We have definitely got a lot closer to what our strategies are going to be," coach Gary Kirsten said.
"We move into the tournament now and really it's just about getting our thinking and our execution right in the moments that count. But this was a great exercise today. I'm glad we had a close game and we had to defend this score."