Sri Lanka 193 all out
South Africa 196/5
South Africa win by five wickets
South Africa’s fast bowlers found a pitch much more to their liking and destroyed Sri Lanka’s top order to set up victory in the first of five One-Day Internationals in Dambulla on Sunday.
Although by no means a surface you’d find at the Wanderers, the one at the Dambulla International Stadium was a great deal more familiar to the South Africans than was the case for the Tests and Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi took advantage thereof in a pair of hostile spells with the new ball.
There were no surprises in terms of personnel nor structure with South Africa’s starting team, with the selectors sticking with two seam-bowling all-rounders in Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder, while Tabraiz Shamsi was the only frontline spinner. It may well be a similar structure they will utilise at the World Cup next year where conditions are expected to be more in favour of the seamers than was the case in Dambulla.
South Africa’s quicks liked what they saw at the start after Angelo Mathews chose to bat, and Rabada got immediate reward when Niroshan Dickwella clipped the third ball of the match, a leg-stump full toss, to Shamsi at mid-on.
That good fortune created momentum and Rabada has shown he is as good as anyone in grasping the initiative when he gets on top. He picked up Kusal Mendis and Shehan Jayasuriya in his first spell, both caught behind.
Ngidi meanwhile troubled everyone with his pace and particularly his bounce, the latter resulting in Mathews’s wicket, who was stuck on the crease waving at a wide ball that he edged to slip. The run out of Upul THaranga added to the home team’s woes, and at 36/5 after nine overs it looked like a short day was in the offing.
Faf du Plessis understandably rested his two frontline quicks but the two young all-rounders then let the team down with some ill-disciplined bowling, that allowed Sri Lanka to come back into the game.
Neither Phehlukwayo nor Mulder could control line or length allowing the broad-shoulder Thisara Perera and the stocky Kusal Perera to counter-attack. Too many balls were simply floated up to the batsmen and when Phehlukwayo and Mulder dropped short, their lack of pace provided the Sri Lankan pair too much time to crush the ball off the backfoot. In their combined six overs Phehlukwayo and Mulder conceded 64 runs.
The Pereras (not related) added 92 for the sixth wicket off just 55 balls and were seperated when Du Plessis called on Shamsi in the 18th over. He found the outside edge of Thisara Perera’s bat dismissing him caught behind for 49 (30b, 8x4) with his fourth ball.
Kusal Perera then did a reasonable job trying to ‘farm’ the bowling as he tried to get his side to a competitive total. But Shamsi proved too much for the lower order and with wickets tumbling the pressure eventually told on Perera who top edged a reverse sweep giving David Miller the opportunity to take an athletic catch at point. Perera made 81 (72b, 11x4, 1x6).
Shamsi eventually finished the Sri Lankan innings in the 35th over ending with figures of 4/33 while Rabada picked up 4/41 in eight overs.
South Africa lost two wickets in the six overs they had to face before the lunch break, with Hashim Amla and Aiden Markram befuddled by Akila Dananjaya’s quirky off-spin.
There was a welcome return to form for De Kock, who looked largely in control in scoring 47 (59b, 4x4, 1x6). He shared a stand of 86 for the third wicket with Du Plessis, to settle any butterflies in the touring team’s dressing room. The South African captain matched De Kock in scoring 47 (56b, 10x4) but will be miffed by a baffling shot which led to his dismissal.
JP Duminy looked in very good touch unleashing an array of attacking strokes to finish unbeaten on 53 (32b, 6x4, 2x6) the 26th half-century of his career, making sure South Africa claimed a comfortable win, their first against Sri Lanka, of the tour.
The second ODI will be played under lights in Dambulla on Wednesday.