South Africa 164 for 3 (De Villiers 60, Amla 34) beat Sri Lanka 163 (Dickwella 74, Pretorius 3-19, Tahir 2-21) by seven wickets
Another day on tour, another collapse – Sri Lanka sank from 60 for no loss to 163 all out at the Wanderers, mis-hitting short balls, hanging their bats out to give catches behind the wicket, and in general committing the same batting mistakes that will have become familiar to their fans during the past six weeks. Of their diminutive target, South Africa made short work. AB de Villiers produced a clinical 60 not out to bring his team home in 32 overs, seven wickets in hand.
The hosts were far from their best in their pink gear, dropping catches and attempting needless runs, but they did not need to be at their best. They have won the series now. The two remaining games are dead rubbers.
The hosts’ bowlers were disciplined – Imran Tahir miserly and menacing in equal measure, as usual – but there was little in the surface to warrant Sri Lanka’s loss of 10 wickets for 103 runs. A little extra bounce – hardly a surprise at the Wanderers – was responsible for the wickets of Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne and Suranga Lakmal. Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva were caught behind. Sachith Pathirana left a stock legbreak which turned to hit his off stump. Such was the quality of their batting.
If it wasn’t for a 65-minute delay due to the arrival of a swarm of bees, Sri Lanka’s innings would have been even shorter. Plenty noted that the bees had spent more time in the middle than most batsmen. Only Dickwella resisted for any notable length of time, his 74 studded with spunky square-of-the-wicket shots – usually timed impeccably. Of his teammates only three others made more than five, and only Tharanga breached 20.
It was Dwaine Pretorius, playing in his fourth ODI after replacing Wayne Parnell in the XI, who took the game’s best figures of 3 for 19. He was tight with the new ball, and although not especially quick, was accurate with his variations. Tahir claimed 2 for 21 in 9.2 overs, and Kagiso Rabada got two scalps as well. South Africa’s fielding was not as effective as usual, but in his 100th ODI, Faf du Plessis nevertheless managed to complete his third spectacular one-handed grab of the series, when he sprang horizontally from second slip to intercept an edge from debutant Lahiru Madushanka.
Though the scorecard will suggest Sri Lanka squandered a good foundation – the openers having made 60 together – in truth, their start was inauspicious. The first boundary came off a Dickwella top edge, and Tharanga was dropped on 11 soon after – the one-handed grab at second slip too tough for du Plessis, for once.
At the end of the first Powerplay, however, Sri Lanka were well-placed at 54 for no loss, both batsmen having found some fluency. Pretorius bowled tightly from the beginning, but Rabada, who would have been seen as the primary wicket-taking threat in the innings, had even been a little expensive in those early overs.
But when the openers both sent catches into the air off their top edges in the 12th over, things began to unravel quickly. The first of those chances – off Dickwella on 25 – was spilled by JP Duminy, who had backtracked from backward point. The second was secured by Pretorius, and the rapid fall of wickets had begun.
Andile Phehlukwayo removed Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal in the space of three overs with two unremarkable deliveries. Chandimal, especially, will be unhappy with this dismissal on what has been a poor tour. Seeing a full, wide delivery, he went down on one knee and nailed it in the air straight to the deep cover sweeper.
When de Silva fell, and following the delay, Gunaratne also went, Sri Lanka had slid to 125 for 5. Dickwella attacked for a little while, perhaps knowing there was not much batting to come, and fell by his sword when he gloved a Pretorius bouncer to the keeper. The tail barely resisted. It was all done inside 40 overs.
Lahiru Kumara bowled with characteristic spirit on ODI debut, and claimed the wicket of Quinton de Kock in the fourth over with a 142kph short ball. But though he continued to threaten through the remainder of his overs, was wayward between the good balls, and conceded more than six an over.
Kumara’s opening partner Suranga Lakmal was unlucky, as he has been through the tour, gleaning an edge off Hashim Amla on 12 only for wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal to grass the diving chance. But with so much batting in South Africa’s line-up, perhaps it wouldn’t have made a major difference to the final score. Amla ran himself out for 34 anyway, though by that stage de Villiers had already begun to take the chase by the collar.
Early in his innings, de Villiers dominated Lakshan Sandakan, who had dismissed him in the previous ODI, and after about 20 balls at the crease, there was no bowler that de Villiers didn’t seem capable of dictating to. He was especially active on the legside – each of his five boundaries coming there – but that was more a reflection of the lines Sri Lanka bowled to him. He took clutches of singles out to deep cover as well, and generally made a small chase seem even smaller.
Sri Lanka may take heart in the bowling of Madushanka, who swung the ball away, albeit at gentle pace, and seemed a player worth a few more games at least. Apart from him and Dickwella’s innings, there was precious little to salvage from this match.