Sri Lanka paste poor Proteas

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Sri Lanka won their first series of any description in South Africa when they successfully chased 170 in the Twenty20 series decider at a packed Newlands on Wednesday.

AB de Villiers (63 off 44 ball) made a wonderful return to the international game but a combination of loose bowling, appalling catching and an injury to a frontline bowler allowed the visitors, with the great help of man of the match and series, Niroshan Dickwella (68 off 51), to a rare away series win.

The match was entertaining and close and the lead swung from one side to the next on many occasions during a thrilling chase but it was also marred by a litany of errors that lended the show to the comedic end of the cricketertainment spectrum.

Behardien won the toss and elected to bat on a sunny afternoon at the foot of Table Mountain. Chasing at night has definitely become a little easier at Newlands but, statistically, teams batting first do have a greater success rate at the ground.

Reeza Hendricks was given a chance at the top of the order while Heino Kuhn lost his spot on the XI. Theunis de Bruyn made way for de Villiers and Dane Paterson debuted in the side. Aaron Phangiso missed out on a wicket where one specialist spinner was seen as enough.

Sri Lanka were without their regular captain Angelo Mathews as he injured his ankle during that heroic triumph at the Wanderers. Upul Tharanga thus played his first T20 international since 2012.

Hendricks (41 off 34) and de Villiers put on 71 for the second wicket in just nine overs and the platform appeared set for the home side to launch to a huge score. However, four wickets then fell for 28 runs and the Proteas’ innings had to be rescued by Mosehle (32 off 15) who boosted the total to a respectable score.

Chinaman bowler Sandakan (1-23) went for under a run a ball and was the pick of the Lankan attack on a drier-than-usual surface.

In reply Sri Lanka conserved wickets as Dickwella steered the ship well and managed, on the whole, to not let the required run rate to get out of hand. South Africa failed to take their chances in the field however as an extraordinary six catching opportunities were missed. Three of those came in consecutive balls during Parnell’s second over. The easiest of those three was a real regulation chance in the deep to Patersen (0-38), who was clearly nervous after bowling a couple of quite ordinary overs upfront.

A brilliant 14th over, by Phehlukwayo (0-32), conceded only two runs and created the pressure that woke up the crowd and helped Tahir (3-18) dismiss Dickwella and de Silva the following over. South Africa appeared to have the game in the bag as the required rate ballooned above 13 an over but a wayward and expensive over from Parnell kept the visitors in with a sniff as Prasanna (37* off 16) made merry.

A run out by Patersen off his own bowling shook things up once more but Gunaratne (11* off 2) and Prasanna made no mistake when they required 11 runs off Patersen in the final over of the match.

The ODI series begins in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

By Nick Sadleir

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