JOHANNESBURG – The loss of four top order wickets inside the opening Power Play of their run-chase proved fatal for the Proteas in the deciding One-Day International against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, said the side’s head coach Mark Boucher.
Set a modest 204 to win, on a pitch that did favour spin, the South African batsmen initially failed to come to terms with the home team’s quick bowler Dushantha Chameera, who picked up two wickets and then folded against the spinners to lose by 78 runs.
“We didn’t start well, which was the turning (point) of the game. That was quite frustrating because our top order - everyone’s had a good knock in the previous two games,” said Boucher.
“To lose three wickets in the first five overs, and four of the top 6 in the first 10, you were always going to be on the back foot.”
Boucher praised Chameera, who outbowled Kagiso Rabada on Tuesday, claiming 2/16 in four overs compared to Rabada, who went wicketless, bowled three no balls and six wides and conceded 46 runs in eight overs.
“They did bowl well, they bowled smartly,” Boucher said of the home team. “Their seamer bowler (Chameera) bowled with good energy and in good areas, backed up by good catching. You have to give credit where it’s due, they started off the innings very well and put us on the back foot straight away.”
South Africa, well led by stand-in captain, Keshav Maharaj, who effectively marshalled the side in the field, utilising spin for 40 out of the 50 overs, had done well to restrict Sri Lanka to 203/9. Maharaj claimed 3/38, while George Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi picked up two wickets apiece and the part-time offspin of Aiden Markram went for 41 runs, with the added bonus of the crucial wicket of Dhananjaya de Silva.
“His bowling changes, his fielding positions, he demands a lot of respect in the field from the rest of the guys, he’s been fantastic in the environment. It’s a good sign when a guy comes in as a stand-in (captain) and shows great quality and leadership, like he has,” Boucher said of Maharaj.
Boucher lamented the loss of the first match of the series, where poor bowling by the seamers, the loss of captain Temba Bavuma at a crucial time in the run-chase to injury and then a middle order collapse, saw South Africa come up short. “We were given the opportunity to win the series in that first game, we were in control of the run chase and maybe slipped up in a period of five overs,” said Boucher.
“(We were) unfortunate to lose Temba when we did. In order to win a series in the subcontinent, you have to cash in when the opportunity arises, that is our biggest regret that we didn’t finish off that first game.”
South Africa remain stuck on 34 points on the ICC Super League table in ninth place. The 20 points Sri Lanka earned from their two wins in the series, saw them rise to fifth. The top eight teams excluding India, qualify automatically for the 2023 World Cup. India’s spot in that tournament is secured as hosts.
South Africa face Sri Lanka in the first of three T20 Internationals on Friday.
The Proteas squad for the men’s T20 World Cup, will be announced on Thursday.