Hashim Amla led the way as the Proteas beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets with 16 overs to spare in the first ODI.
To be fair, he was never under pressure after Wayne Parnell (3-48) and Imran Tahir (3-26) had crushed the Sri Lankan batting, restricting them to 181 in Port Elizabeth.
Quinton de Kock and Amla took the score to 71 and were in total control, cruising along at five an over when De Kock had a rush of blood and drove a full, wide ball from the slow-left armer Lakshan Sandakan straight to cover when he had 34 off 39.
Adding 60 with Du Plessis without breaking sweat, Amla was looking good on 57 off 71 (5×4, 1×6) when Asela Gunaratne delivered a slower ball which Amla mistimed and popped back to the bowler. The game was by then done and dusted, with the Proteas needing 50 runs off 24 overs.
Du Plessis moved to his 24th ODI fifty off 67 balls, with support from De Villiers on 30.
Earlier, Parnell’s early strikes removed the openers in seven balls, and Imran Tahir undermined their rebuilding exercise by taking three wickets in 15 balls.
At 14-2, Kusal Mendis had played a beautiful innings to repair the damage, waiting for the one ball he could put away. He did this effectively for his first 28 runs, all of which came from boundaries before he deigned to take a single. It says much for the bowling that he was able to add just two more on his way to his fifty off 74 balls.
At least a foundation had been laid at 86-2, when Tahir produced the almost-perfect googly to bowl Dinesh Chandimal, who had laboured through 55 balls for his 22 (1×4).
Mendis was to follow four overs later for 62, lbw to a Tahir delivery that stayed straight. Two overs later the captain, Upal Tharanga, chipped straight to cover and Tahir was off on his celebratory run around the field.
Quick thinking by Quinton de Kock engineered the run-out of Asela Gunaratne (10) at the bowler’s end and another brilliant diving catch by the keeper to dismiss Nuwan Kulasekara (17) put Sri Lanka on the slide. Parnell returned to have Dhananjaya de Silva well taken by Faf du Plessis as he tried to hit over the top, ending with 3-48.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images