CAPE TOWN – At last! The Proteas broke their duck on their winter tour of Sri Lanka by clinching a five-wicket victory in the first ODI in Dambulla on Sunday.
But what was different this time around after the South Africans were all at sea in the 2-0 Test series defeat?
1 A decent pitch
There was actually some bounce and pace at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium. This pitch had some carry in it that rewarded fast bowlers who put their backs into it, and spinners got turn. Batsmen could also hit through the line.
2 Some zip from the fast bowlers
Kagiso Rabada took full advantage of the reasonable conditions and bowled with real fire, while Lungi Ngidi also charged in. His delivery to Angelo Mathews was well outside off, but the Sri Lankan captain appeared to be hinging on his back foot, and played away from his body on a good length and edged to slip.
Suddenly Sri Lanka were 36/5, and it’s a long road back from there.
3 Tabraiz Shamsi ripping it
The game could’ve gotten away from the Proteas when change bowlers Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo were plundered by Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera. But enter Tabraiz Shamsi, who – after being hit for a few boundaries – spun out Thisara for 49 with a lovely chinaman delivery that turned away from the left-hander and go the edge.
That ended a 92-run partnership, and Shamsi cleaned up the tail to claim 4/33.
4 A clear plan against the spinners
That may not have seemed to be the case when Hashim Amla missed a straight one from Akila Dananjaya and was bowled, and Aiden Markram was trapped lbw first-ball with the very same straight delivery.
But Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis played with conviction, and JP Duminy swept his way to a welcome 50.
5 Proper batting partnerships
Even the 31-run stand by De Kock and Amla was valuable in settling the nerves for what would’ve been a fragile batting line-up following the difficulties in the Tests.
And the two wickets in two balls didn’t take the Proteas out of their stride either, as they edged away at the 194-run target.
Du Plessis, De Kock and Duminy were also confident in hitting over the top and coming down the wicket, which bodes well for the rest of the series.
* The second ODI is on Wednesday, again in Dambulla (11am SA time).