JOHANNESBURG – Dwaine Pretorius didn’t waste the opportunity to display his batting ability as the Proteas beat Sri Lanka by 45 runs on the DLS Method at the Wanderers in Johannesburg to secure a 3-0 T20 series whitewash.
All this chatter about a batting all-rounder at no.7 for the World Cup has clearly gotten through to two of the prospective candidates for the job.
Andile Phehlukwayo remains the favourite to start in England, but Pretorius continued to show that as much as anything, he would be a reliable member of the squad for the World Cup should he be picked.
Before Sunday he’d batted just eight times for the national side – all in ODIs – once at no.6, and the rest at 7, so the chance to go in at ‘first drop’ was certainly one to relish.
Aiden Markram’s infuriating habit of looking good and getting out continued as he was dismissed in the sixth over, allowing Pretorius plenty of time to get accustomed to conditions and the Sri Lankan bowling.
He took singles off his first five balls, clouted his sixth for four and smashed his 12th into the neighbouring block of flats.
At the other end Reeza Hendricks followed up Friday’s 65 in Centurion with another aggressive innings of 68 (52b, 8x4, 2x6), the feature of Sunday’s knock were his inside/out lofted drives, while one slog sweep for six also disappeared into the same block of flats found earlier by Pretorius.
The Lions pair shared a partnership of 90 for the second wicket, cleverly increasing the scoring rate as the innings ticked passed the halfway stage.
South Africa scored 102 runs of the last eight overs, 71 of those coming in an unbeaten third wicket stand between Pretorius and stand-in skipper JP Duminy who scored 34 off 14 balls (2x4, 3x6). Pretorius finished not out on 77 (42b, 7x4, 3x6), making another strong case for his inclusion in the 50-over showpiece that starts at The Oval on May 30. One particularly pleasing aspect for Pretorius will be how he played the Sri Lankan spinners, rotating the strike but also finding the boundary by upsetting their lengths.
Having done all of that with the bat, Pretorius then made the initial breakthrough with the ball, trapping Dhananjaya de Silva lbw with his first ball. That came after Sri Lanka had made a rapid start, but it was also the start of a collapse, as they slumped from 42/0 to 61/4 in 13 balls. Niroshan Dickwella was primarily responsible for that start, scoring 38 off 22 balls, but he was superbly caught by wicket-keeper Sinethemba Qeshile.
Sri Lanka pushed to 111/6 at the start of the 12th over thanks to some booming sixes from the hugely impressive Isuru Udana when rain stopped play for 75 minutes. Upon resumption, the tourists needed 72 off 35 balls.
Udana hit one more six before he was caught by Dave Miller on the long-off boundary for 36 (23b, 4x6), effectively ending Sri Lanka’s chance of claiming a consolation win.
After the bitter disappointment of the shock loss in the Test series, South Africa won all eight limited-overs encounters against the Sri Lankans. It won’t be enough to assuage the wounds from the Tests, but it will have lifted confidence and provided some clarity about World Cup selections, with Pretorius’ performance Sunday fitting firmly into that latter category.