JOHANNESBURG – Janneman Malan drenched in perspiration, using his bat as a walking aid, his elbow bleeding after he’d collapsed with cramp, walked off the Premadasa pitch a hero on Saturday.
Malan has one of the most remarkable records for any player at the start of his ODI career, having gone passed fifty five times in just eight innings, and turning three of those into hundreds. As good as his maiden century was against Australia, to help anchor a run chase in Bloemfontein in March last year, Saturday’s effort in Colombo was even better.
The pitch and atmospheric conditions would not have been something Malan, born in Nelspruit, and who spent the early days of his professional career playing in Potchefstroom, before moving to Cape Town, would have been accustomed to.
This was an innings that required brains, skill and bravery and Malan had bucketloads of all three. Patient initially as South Africa, featuring three changes to the playing XI from the side that lost the first match by 14 runs, Malan in partnership with Aiden Markram shared an opening stand of 43 runs. South Africa scored at around five runs an over for the majority of their innings, after Keshav Maharaj, who replaced Temba Bavuma as captain after the latter was forced to return home with a fractured thumb, chose to bat first.
George Linde was handed a debut as South Africa reinforced the spin bowling, while Wiaan Mulder replaced Kyle Verreynne and Reeza Hendricks took Bavuma’s spot at no.3. Heavy overnight rain in the Sri Lankan capital, which only subsided hours before the start of the match, had reduced the game to 47 overs per side.
It was Hendricks in partnership with Malan, who carefully built the foundation for South Africa’s innings with a partnership of 96. Hendricks hit some lovely boundaries, especially through the legside off the spinners. Both the Proteas batsmen ran hard, utilising the vast outfield to hit the ball into gaps and turning singles into twos.
Normally that wouldn’t be too demanding for athletes who are as fit as the South Africans, but in Colombo’s oppressive humidity it would eventually take its toll. Hendricks’s who’d made his only hundred on debut against Sri Lanka three years ago, scored 51 (54b, 5x4) on Saturday before being bowled, using his feet against Dhananjaya de Silva.
After Rassie van der Dussen came and went for 16, Malan and an under pressure Henrich Klaasen provided the Proteas innings with the impetus it needed. Malan started suffering with cramps as he went into the 80s, and regularly took on fluid from squad mates.
While Malana tried to stay upright, Klaasen, who needed an innings of substance, sought out the boundary regularly as Sri Lanka started to panic. Klaasen punished a number short balls that came his way hitting four fours and a six in a 27-ball innings in which he made 43. His partnership with Malan was an invaluable 86 runs off only 54 balls.
Malan who was doubling over and using bat to keep him upright at times, reached his hundred in the 43rd over, slowly trotting a single as his appreciative teammates applauded his efforts. A short while later he collapsed trying to play the sweep, falling to the ground so hard that he ripped the skin off his elbow. Treatment and more energy drinks followed, but Malan chose not to sacrifice his wicket and instead smashed three more fours and a six before he was eventually dismissed with two overs remaining.
It was an extraordinary effort, in which he scored 121, off 135 balls, hitting nine fours and a six.
Sri Lanka unravelled in the last 10 overs, with a plethora of fielding mistakes, some downright comical including one instance where Wanindu Hasarange, having stopped the ball on the boundary threw it passed his skipper Dasun Shanaka, to gift South Africa six runs.
The tourists scored 97 runs in the last 10 overs.
South Africa 283/6 (47 overs): Janneman Malan 121, Reeza Hendricks 51, Chamika Karunaratne 2/24, Dushmantha Chameera 2/52