Half-centuries from opening batsman Hashim Amla and captain Faf du Plessis, followed by four wickets from Andile Phehlukwayo, carried South Africa to an 87-run victory over Sri Lanka in Friday’s World Cup warm-up fixture at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Wales, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Amla contributed a polished 65(61) in South Africa’s first innings effort of 338-7.
The Proteas opener shared a partnership of 128 runs for the second wicket with captain Faf du Plessis, who top-scored with 88 (69 balls, 7×4, 4×6).
Sri Lanka had some good moments with the bat, and went after the Proteas’ support bowlers after new-ball bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi had initially pegged them back. Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne (87) and Angelo Mathews (64) had some valuable time out in the middle, but most of their fellow teammates gave their wickets away with some rash shots as they slumped to 251 all out.
Andile Phehlukwayo was the Proteas’ best bowler, picking up four wickets in his seven overs to go with Ngidi’s 2-12 in his six overs. There was some cause for concern as all-rounders Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius, plus left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, came in for some tap, with all three going for more than 6.50 an over in the Sri Lankans’ failed run chase.
Amla arrived in England a little short of gallop after deciding to withdraw himself from the South African T20 competition, electing to prepare for the World Cup with Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein. That decision seemed to be justified, at least after this dig, as he struck the ball sweetly from the start of his innings on a pitch that offered some assistance to the bowlers.
There was one magnificent square drive in the third over off Suranga Lakmal, which suggested that Amla was in good touch. He hit the ball on the up. His head was dead still and his balance superb. In truth, it looked like the Amla of old.
His innings was undone by a Jeevan Mendis googly, which he misread, but not before he allayed some fears about his readiness for the competition proper, which starts next week.
His opening partner, Aiden Markram, looked just as good for his turn at the crease, but a familiar dismissal led to his demise. Markram (21), who was essentially auditioning for a spot in the crowded Proteas batting line-up for the opener against England on Thursday, again flashed at a wide delivery away from his body before heading to the pavilion.
Du Plessis carried on with his form from the IPL and really took the game to Sri Lanka before departing one over after Amla. Rassie van der Dussen then shook the cobwebs off with a 41-ball 40 to keep the momentum going for the South Africans.
However, coach Ottis Gibson would not have been happy with the performances of key left-handers JP Duminy and David Miller, who couldn’t take advantage of the platform set by their top-order teammates.
It was then left to the all-rounders Phehlukwayo, Morris and Pretorius to get the Proteas over the 300-mark. All three will be happy with their hitting at the end, but only two of them are likely to play against England.
Phehlukwayo basically cemented his place in the team when he produced a wonderful second spell to break the back of the Sri Lankan batting line-up.
Ngidi and Rabada were good upfront, but there will be a lot of debate around the third seamer position after Morris’ expensive outing. The Titans star is likely to come in for the injured Dale Steyn against England if Gibson decides to go with three fast bowlers, but didn’t quite hit his lines or lengths against Sri Lanka.
The other option would be to play Shamsi alongside veteran Imran Tahir, but the left-arm spinner also didn’t cover himself in glory, although the surface didn’t really help the slower bowlers.
Both Morris and Shamsi, as well as Pretorius, will have another chance to push for a starting berth on Sunday when South Africa conclude their warm-up roster with a clash against the West Indies.
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