JOHANNESBURG – Faf du Plessis described Reeza Hendricks’ performance yesterday as “remarkable” not just for the runs he scored and the way he scored them, but the fact that the 29-year-old did so with the series still on the line.
Hendricks' innings of 102 was a performance of the highest class packed with elegant stroke-play and even as he ended with a strike rate of 114.6, he did not look rushed.
“It was just remarkable to see him play so freely,” said Du Plessis.
It was a special innings but one that the talented Hendricks has long been capable of playing.
His form for the Highveld Lions across all formats last summer was very good and the resultant national call-ups; first for the T20 side against India and now for the ODI team indicates a player whose confidence is high.
“With the class we have in South Africa and the batsmen we have in the team, it’s quite difficult to break through. I was fortunate today that I got my opportunity and made some runs,” said Hendricks who became the third debutant - after Colin Ingram and Temba Bavuma - to score a century for the Proteas and the 14th overall.
Hendricks, who has played 12 T20 Internationals, displayed characteristic style when playing through the off-side producing an innings packed with silky stroke-making.
It was an innings that was perfectly timed, he never seemed to be forcing the pace, and if he couldn’t hit a boundary he was more than happy to chip or otherwise manouvre the ball into space.
Until the 89th delivery of his innings, little troubled him, and he brought up the landmark with a pair of special back-to-back boundaries; the first a lovely punch off the backfoot through the covers, a signature shot of his, followed by a deft flick through midwicket. Hendricks' innings included eight fours and a six and provided the perfect platform from which JP Duminy and David Miller could launch 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 international scene a decade ago.
South Africa smashed 146 runs in the last 15 overs, with Duminy scoring 92 (70b, 8x4, 4x6). There was a return to form for Miller as well, who scored 51 off 47 balls (5x4, 1x6) as South Africa notched up the highest score at the Pallekele International Stadium, easily eclipsing the 327/6 Sri Lanka made against Zimbabwe seven years ago.
“The tone with which we are batting is fantastic. Even when we were losing wickets the guys stayed aggressive,” said Du Plessis.
Sri Lanka succumbed to the scoreboard pressure going hard at the start and losing four wickets inside the first 12 overs.
The South African bowlers found the going tough as well on the easy-paced surface, and Du Plessis was glad that they were put under some late pressure during a fine 95-run stand for the seventh wicket between Dhananjaya de Silva (84, 66b, 8x4, 3x6) and Akila Dhananjaya, who made 37.
Lungi Ngidi picked up four wickets and Andile Phehlukwayo three, to ensure the tourists wrapped up the series with two matches to spare.
Results in Sri Lanka:
South Africa 363/7
Sri Lanka 285
SA won by 78 runs