JOHANNESBURG – South Africa have the bowlers to take advantage of spin friendly conditions, but the batting still needs a lot more work.
On a Premadasa strip that had been used previously in the series, the Proteas, well led by stand-in skipper Keshav Maharaj in the field, delivered smartly with the ball, with 80% of the overs being bowled by spinners, however the batsmen, never got to grips when put under pressure by the Sri Lankan tweakers.
While 17 of the 19 wickets that fell in the match were taken by spinners, a crucial difference in the third ODI on Tuesday involved the new ball and the way the respective fast bowlers in each team used it.
On paper, South Africa should have had the advantage with Kagiso Rabada in their ranks, but he was outbowled by Dushmantha Chameera in the final ODI. The Sri Lanka quick bowler, who often nudged 140km/h, had the new ball darting about, and picked up two wickets, the first was a ‘peach’ that seamed back through the gap left between Reeza Hendricks bat and pad and clipped the top off off-stump and his second was the result of a superb catch at midwicket by Kamindu Mendis, diving forward to his left.
Rabada had sprained an ankle in the field during the second match last Saturday, and had to undergo a fitness test before the start of play, to determine his readiness. How much that ankle was an issue only Rabada will know, but having said he was fit to start, he really should have performed much better. Three no balls, six wides tell the tale of a fast bowler, whose rhythm was completely out of sync. He never troubled any of the Sri Lankan batsmen, certainly not to the extent that Chameera did the South Africans.
While Chameera did damage at one end, Praveen Jayawickrama, picked up Aiden Markram and by the time the first Power Play ended the tourists were 45/4 and the hopes of a third consecutive series win by South Africa in Sri Lanka were dashed.
It was a horrible performance by South Africa’s batsmen, who had coped much better against the home team’s spinners in the first two matches, when conditions weren’t as conducive to spin as was the case on Tuesday.
Unlike the Sri Lanka batsmen, in the shape of the impressive Charith Asalanka, who made 47, Dhananjaya de Silva, who scored 31 and then Chameera, batting at nine, who made 29, the South Africans lacked the necessary patience and skill to stay at the crease.
The debutant off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana, was superb, mixing off-breaks with ‘carrom’ balls to bamboozle the South Africans and finishing with 4/37, having claimed his first wicket, that of Janneman Malan, with the first ball he bowled.
South Africa would have been delighted with their efforts in the field, even if ultimately, that ninth wicket partnership of 32 between Chameera and Theekshana, proved pivotal. If anything, South Africa’s spinners may have offered up too many loose balls, and a few too many easy singles to the Sri Lankan top order.
Maharaj, as good as he was in rotating his bowlers, may look back at some of his field placings and regret not keeping more fielders in the circle to try and squeeze the home team’s batsmen. He was South Africa’s most successful bowler, claiming 3/38, while Linde picked up 2/32 and Tabraiz Shamsi finished with 2/31.
Markram, impressed after conceding 16 runs in an initial two over spell in the first Power Play and returned to claim the wicket wicket of Dhananjaya de Silva – thanks to an outstanding catch by wicket wicketkeeper, Heinrich Klaasen, who had to move around the batsmen from behind the stumps, and dive full length, to secure the ball in his right glove – while conceding 25 runs in his next eight overs.
As much as conditions were in favour of spinners, South Africa’s batsmen will need to take a hard look at themselves. This was a failure on their part. No international side should be getting bowled out in 30 overs.
Sri Lanka 203/9 (Charith Asalanka 47, Dhananjaya de Silva 31, Keshav Maharaj 3/38, Tabraiz Shamsi 2/31
South Africa 125 all out (Heinrich Klaasen 22, Janneman Malan 18, Maheesh Theekshana 4/37, Dushmantha Chameera 2/16)
Sri Lanka win by 78 runs
Sri Lanla win series 2-1