Sri Lanka 299 for 8 (Mathews 97*, Mulder 2-59) v South Africa
Angelo Mathews finished three runs short of a first ODI hundred in Sri Lanka and first against South Africa, but his run-a-ball 97 took Sri Lanka to an imposing total on a surface that is slowing down. As a result, South Africa will need to pull off the highest successful chase at this venue and the hosts can be satisfied with their most complete batting performance in a full innings in this series.
Four fifty partnerships held together an innings in which Sri Lanka showed aggression against an inconsistent but ever-threatening South African pack. Keshav Maharaj was the stand-out performer and put in the most economical performance of his short ODI career. Maharaj’s 10 overs cost only 32 runs as he found turn and proved difficult to get away.
Kagiso Rabada, brought into the XI in place of the leading wicket-taker in the series Lungi Ngidi, was the best of the quicks while Junior Dala, Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo shared five wickets between them. However, the inexperience of the trio showed. Sri Lanka were only too happy to take advantage and scored quickly and decisively, though they will still rue some soft dismissals.
Rabada and Dala started by asking Sri Lanka’s openers questions with back-of-a-length deliveries, and the first five overs were boundary-less. As though to make up for lost opportunity, Niroshan Dickwella took three fours off Dala’s third over – a thwack down the ground, a flick over midwicket and a drive through the covers – as Dala went too full. A change of ends did not stop Dala from over-pitching and Sri Lanka’s fifty and second half-century opening stand of the series came up off him in the ninth over.
But the next ball gave Dala his first ODI wicket when he held the length back and Upul Tharanga edged through to Quinton de Kock, who took a low catch to his left. Dala could have had another wicket in that over when Kusal Perera played a short ball too early and sent it aerial, short of mid-off. Instead, it was Mulder who enjoyed success when Kusal slashed at a short ball and sent it straight to Heinrich Klaasen in the covers.
Sri Lanka were 64 for 2 after 10 overs and Dickwella was living dangerously. He was on 31 when he almost chipped a Phehlukwayo ball onto middle stump but it bounced over, and on 32, a Mulder delivery nipped in off the seam and just sailed over leg stump as Dickwella missed his flick. South Africa’s young allrounders did not apply consistent pressure, Phehlukwayo offered width, Mulder lost his lines and Sri Lanka’s 100 was up in 99 balls.
Maharaj was introduced in the 18th over and immediately tied things up with flight and control but Phehlukwayo continued to offer runs. Kusal Mendis pulled a short ball to fine leg and drove a fuller one past the non-striker but Phehlukwayo had some reward when Dickwella gloved an attempted cut.
When Mathews arrived, he knew he needed to show Maharaj the respect he commanded but that runs would come from the other end. He drove a Phehlukwayo slower ball through mid-on, a Rabada length ball through mid-off and another in the ‘v’ to establish his authority.
Maharaj was rewarded for his persistence when he drew Kusal Mendis forward to play away from his body and found the edge. The fall of that wicket sent Mathews into a shell and another five boundary-free overs were bowled. In the process, Dala hit Dhananjaya de Silva in the stomach with a short ball. Mathews countered when he pulled the next short ball from Dala through midwicket but went quiet again while Maharaj and Duminy bowled in tandem.
Sri Lanka scored 50 runs in the 11 overs between 26 and 37 while Maharaj bowled out, conceding his only boundary when de Silva pulled a long-hop over mid-wicket. De Silva and Mathews’ partnership was worth 53 off 74 balls when de Silva tried to smack a Mulder slower ball down the ground but gave Reeza Hendricks a high catch at mid-off. Mathews finished the over by flat-batting Mulder for four but it was not until the last ten overs began that the real assault occurred.
At the end of the 40th over, Mathews brought up his fifty with a single off 66 balls. His next 47 runs came in 31 balls and included delights such as a sweep for six off JP Duminy, a cut off Phehlukwayo, and an array of pull shots as the young quicks relied on the short ball. Thisara Perera was of little help to Mathews’ efforts and sliced a cut to Hashim Amla at backward point. Dasun Shanaka’s 15-ball 21, however, came in handy. Shanaka was dismissed in the final over, when Mathews needed six runs for a century but only managed three singles. He won’t mind too much because Sri Lanka scored 93 runs in the last ten overs to set South Africa a challenging target.