SRI LANKA coasted to an eight-wicket victory over the Castle Lager Proteas at Pallekele Stadium with six overs in hand on Sunday to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match ODI series. The final match will be played at Colombo on Wednesday.
Tillekeratne Dilshan, who hit an unbeaten 115 off 130 balls with six fours, and Kumar Sangakkara, who was caught in the deep nine runs short of his century (101 balls, 8 fours and 2 sixes), shared a second wicket partnership of 184 runs to make light work of the target of 239.
This was a record for Sri Lanka on home soil and only 16 runs short of the Sri Lankan overall record set by the same two players against India.
There was no doubting that Dilshan would be named Man of the Match as he also took the wickets of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers to cap a fine all-round performance.
The Proteas total of 238 after they had won the toss had always looked 30 to 40 short of where they needed to be even before Dilshan and Sangakkara took the game away from them.
The only two real highlights for the Proteas were Amla’s first innings of the series (77 off 71 balls with 9 fours) and the all-round contribution of JP Duminy (97 off 121 balls, 7 fours and 2 sixes) backed up by a tidy spell of bowling (34 runs in 10 overs) that was easily the most economical for his side.
When Amla and Duminy were together during a second-wicket partnership of 101 in 19 overs, it looked as though the pair had laid the foundation for a total close to 300. But it was not to be, the crucial moments coming when Faf du Plessis, David Miller and Farhaan Behardien were all dismissed for the addition of one run off six deliveries. It meant that the Proteas suddenly slipped from 172/3 to 173/6 going into the final 12 overs.
The upshot was that Duminy had to bat conservatively into the final phase of the innings with the last man, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, joining him at the crease with more than five overs still to be bowled. It certainly cost Duminy a well-deserved century as he was the last man out with eight deliveries left unbowled.
The Proteas’ performance underlined a couple of bad faults that have crept into their limited overs game of late. The one was the inability of the team to bat out its full 50 overs and the other was a recurrence of the bowling menace that saw a total of 13 wides sent down by various members of the attack. Robbie Peterson was the only one of the six bowlers used not to infringe.
If one takes into account that one of the wides went for a boundary and there was also a no ball from Tsotsobe, it meant that 18 extra runs were presented to Sri Lanka on a plate.
This is the third time that this particular plague has come to the fore in the four matches played in the series to date.
There will be no lack of motivation for the Proteas to come up with something special when the final match takes place on Wednesday.