JOHANNESBURG - Sri Lanka earned just its ninth win in its last 38 One-Day Internationals, eventually overcoming the Proteas in a tense fourth ODI at the Pallakele Stadium on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka snapped an 11 game losing streak against the South Africans but the tourists will feel that they allowed the Sri Lankans back into the game after looking like they were in complete control of the run-chase. After the umpteenth interruption for rain, South Africa were set 191 to win in 21 overs and thanks to a stunning partnership of 57 runs for the third wicket between Hashim Amla (40, 23b, 6x4) and JP Duminy (38, 23b, 3x4, 2x6) off only 29 balls the Proteas found themselves well ahead of the required rate.
Even the loss of Amla in the 10th over didn’t slow them down, with Duminy’s magnificent series continuing as he struck the ball sweetly to all parts. The game turned on its head in the 13th over when first Heinrich Klaasen was brilliantly caught by Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews and then Duminy was run out by Dasun Shanaka.
The home team were able to build pressure and although David Miller cooly took the game to the final over with the gettable target of eight runs required, when he was bowled by the second ball of the over, South Africa’s chances were gone. The start of the match was delayed by over an hour and after two further interruptions owing to the weather in the early stages of Sri Lanka’s innings, the match was reduced to 39 overs a side.
Quinton de Kock taking over from Faf du Plessis as captain, did something Du Plessis has failed to do on tour - win a toss - but initially his bowlers struggled with their lines and lengths. The Sri Lankan innings was a rip-roaring affair that contained 27 fours and 12 sixes. South Africa’s own ill-discipline was only partly the reason, but also Sri Lanka’s players looked more liberated with the series already decided.
South Africa made three changes to the starting team that won the previous match; Junior Dala made his ODI debut in place of Kagiso Rabada, while Heinrich Klaasen replaced the injured Du Plessis who will arrive back in the country on Friday and Keshav Maharaj replaced Tabraiz Shamsi. The Sri Lanka openers, Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga provided a solid start - 61 runs in 11.3 overs - just the right sort of platform from which their flamboyant middle order could flourish.
Dala and Lungi Ngidi battled with the conditions, as did the two all-rounders Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder, and it required some guile from the revitalised Duminy to give the Proteas a foothold in the match. He claimed the key wicket of Kusal Perera who made a rollicking 51 off 32 balls (6x4, 2x6) just when Sri Lanka looked like they were getting away. That wicket came in South Africa’s best period of the home team’s innings, with three wickets falling for 36 runs in five overs.
However, Shanuka, who replaced Prabath Jayasuriya and Thisara Perera, then re-set the innings before launching an astonishing assault in the last 10 overs. The pair shared a partnership of 109 off just 68 balls for the seventh wicket, with Shanuka, who looked uncomfortable initially, thrilling a delirious crowd once he’d settled in. He scored a career-best 65 off only 35 balls, hitting four fours and five sixes.
Thisara Perera, by some distance the more experienced of the two players, was happy to let Shanaka dominate, but his own innings was speedy too, and unbeaten 51 off 45 balls (3x4, 2x6).
Naturally South Africa’s bowling figures didn’t make for pretty reading; Dala was unlucky to get such difficult conditions to bowl in when he is trying to make an impression on the national selectors and conceded 64 runs in eight overs, while Ngidi too had a difficult day conceding 65 runs in eight overs, although he had the solace of two wickets one of which was the result of a stunning one-handed catch by his captain.
Duminy was the most economical of the bowlers, conceding 35 runs in six overs - 12 of which came in his last over - while he also picked up two wickets.