The final analysis suggests the most straightforward of victories, but there was concern for a good portion of a pleasant afternoon in
For an hour or so, on either side of the change of innings,
It started with the bat, when they failed to trampoline from 189/1, with more than 16 overs to go, to a total well north of 300. They eventually ended on a reasonable 299/6, thanks mainly to a fine Hashim Amla century, and a typically effusive 75 from Faf du Plessis.
That show of resilience with the ball would have heartened De Villiers, and he would also have been pleased with the way Amla (103) and Du Plessis started slowly, then charged into a position of authority.
It is early days, of course, but the Proteas will be glad for this mini-test. They were put under pressure, and some key men stood up.
The form of Amla, who reeled off an incredible 25th century in the format – the most by a South African, surpassing AB de Villiers in the process – continues to please, while Du Plessis is also in pretty ominous touch.
“I was happy with the way the openers assessed upfront. We saw at the end that it wasn’t as true a wicket as the England-Bangladesh (game),” De Villiers pointed out in the post-mortem.
As for Amla, who became the fastest man to 25 tons, De Villiers, a legend in his own right, continues to be blown away.
“It’s scary the amount of runs he has piled on. He is a great asset in the team, and he also contributes a lot in the dressing-room,” De Villiers said of his run-machine.
They will know that 299 may have sufficed against a limited Sri Lankan side, but it just won’t do against the powerhouses that lie in wait deeper in the tournament.
They needed JP Duminy (38 not out) to finish in a hurry, and then they watched on as
At that point, there was a need for cool heads, and that was precisely what
Morné Morkel struck with his second ball, removing the gallivanting Niroshan Dickwella, and that immediately brought the boil down to a simmer.
Imran Tahir – who else – then came in and did what is now second nature to him, turning the match firmly into the Proteas’ slipstream. The ageless assassin ended with 4/27, ending the game and claiming the player of the match, shading his great friend Amla.
“I was quite pleased with the way it came out today, and happy about a great start for our team,” Tahir said after the match.
He was held back until the 18th over by De Villiers, who waited for the Lankan fires to die down before introducing his trump card.
“He knew the situation, but I am always ready to bowl,” Tahir said of his introduction into the attack. “Their openers batted really well, but we stuck to our plans and came back strongly, which was pleasing,” he added.
A team certainly can’t win a tournament in the opening round, but you can set yourselves back enormously.
The Proteas will now pause, and take in the cultural collision between