South Africa 363/7
Sri Lanka 285
SA won by 78 runs
Reeza Hendricks took the opportunity granted to him by the selectors and Aiden Markram’s poor form to play an elegant innings that provided South Africa with the platform from which they built a series-winning lead in Kandy on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Highveld Lions opener, picked in the squad on the back of some excellent form for his franchise last summer, made a strong case for being granted a long term starting place in the One-Day side with a hundred on debut, that was littered with silky strokeplay.
Markram has struggled for form throughout the tour particularly against Sri Lanka’s spinners, and with his confidence low, the selectors gave Hendricks, who has played 12 T20 Internationals his first go in the 50-overs shirt.
He did not disappoint, taking advantage of arguably the best batting pitch South Africa have encountered on the tour to produce an innings of high quality. He displayed characteristic style when playing through the off-side but also showed off some nifty innovation when the Sri Lankans turned to their spinners.
However the pitch at the Pallekele International Stadium, provided little purchase for Akila Dananjaya and Prabath Jayasuriya. Clearly Sri Lanka had mis-read the pitch for it had ‘bat first’ written all over it, or maybe Angelo Mathews was just keen to try something different having lost the first two games after choosing to bat.
That decision gave South Africa a significant advantage however and despite the early dismissal of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and Hendricks got stuck into some wayward bowling.
Amla, after being dropped when on 4 in the previous match, has looked back to something approaching his best form since, and made a lovely 59 (59b, 9x4, 1x6), which allowed Hendricks to settle.
He played smartly, finding the gaps cleverly, while he worked hard running between the wickets too. Despite Faf du Plessis scoring just 10, Hendricks found and able partner in JP Duminy, with the pair adding 78 for the fourth wicket.
Hendricks went to his hundred with back-to-back boundaries – the first a lovely punch of the backfoot through the covers, a signature shot of his, followed by a deft flick through midwicket – and he celebrated by jumping and punching the air.
He’d barely had the chance to absorb the excitement before he was brilliantly bowled by Lahiru Kumara, with one that nipped back and clipped the ‘leg’ bail. Hendricks scored 102 off just 89 balls, hitting eight fours and a six.
Duminy and later David Miller were then clinical in how they punished the Sri Lankans in the last 15 overs. Duminy’s form has been a boon for the Proteas, who would have been concerned about the inconsistency of one of their most experienced players. But utilising a more attacking mindset, he has played with greater freedom and looks like the player that captivated the world when he burst onto the scene a decade ago.
Thanks to Duminy, South Africa smashed 146 runs in the last 15 overs, with Duminy scoring 92 (70b, 8x4, 4x6) – including a stunning assault against Suranga Lakmal in the 46th over when he hit consecutive fours followed by consecutive sixes. There was a return to form for Miller, who scored 51 off 47 balls (5x4, 1x6) as South Africa notched up the highest score at the venue, easily eclipsing the 327/6 Sri Lanka made against Zimbabwe seven years ago.
Sri Lanka succumbed to the scoreboard pressure going hard at the start and losing four wickets inside the first 12 overs.
Wickets fell at regular intervals throughout the home-side’s innings until Dhananjaya de Silva and Akila Dhananjaya produced a 95-run partnership for seventh wicket to give the crowd some smiles. De Silva made 84 off 66 balls (8x4, 3x6), but it was in vain, with none of the top order providing assistance.
Lungi Ngidi finished with 4/57 and Andile Phehlukwayo 3/74 as South Africa claimed another comfortable win, with two matches still left in the series.
Meawhile, captain Faf du Plessis said his right shoulder would be assessed overnight after he injured it diving for a catch during the Sri Lankan innings on Sunday. Du Plessis has previously had surgery on the shoulder. SA are expected to give the rest of the squad game time in the last two matches of the series.
The fourth ODI will be played at the same venue on Wednesday.@shockerhess