• Amla, De Villiers star in win

    The Proteas have beaten Sri Lanka by 75 runs in the first ODI, to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, reports Dan Gillespie.

    In the first day game played at the R Premadasa stadium in five years, AB de Villiers won the toss and put his side in to bat first on a slow two-paced pitch. They made 304-5, Hashim Amla top-scoring with 109, while De Villiers contributed 75, and David Miller smashed an unbeaten 35 to close out the innings. In reply Sri Lanka made 229 all out, giving the Proteas a 75-run victory.

    Chasing 305 to win, Sri Lanka’s opening pair of Kusal Perera and Tillakeratne Dilshan got off to a rollicking start, targeting Imran Tahir in particular, but also managing to hit a succession of boundaries off Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Their partnership lasted until Vernon Philander had Perera caught a short fine leg off a slower ball in the eighth over.

    After that, Sri Lanka lost wickets regularly, despite scoring at a brisk rate. Dilshan went in the 16th over, edging Morkel to De Kock behind the stumps for 40, Mahela Jayawardene edged Tahir to the keeper in the 23rd over, and Ayan Priyanjan fell to a rush of blood to the head, skying Tahir into Kallis’ big mitts for 5 in the 25th. Angelo Mathews was the next to go, yet another Sri Lankan tempted by a wide one, this time from Morkel, and edging to the keeper. He made just 13.

    Kumar Sangakarra, though, was the thorn in the side of the Proteas, barely looking troubled as he eased his way to a half-century off 51 balls. Lahiru Thirimanne joined him in the 30th over, and together they batted well, keeping the score ticking over despite some tight bowling from JP Duminy and Philander. When it came time for the powerplay, Sangakkara cashed in, hitting 25 from the first two overs.

    Then Sri Lanka collapsed. Looking to push the rate, Thirimanne tried to smash a full, straight Ryan McLaren ball and was bowled, before Sangakkara mistimed one straight into the air to be caught two balls later, to finish on 88. Steyn then got Kulasekara to play at a wide one, and he inside edged it on to his stumps, with Tahir taking the ninth. Steyn wrapped up the innings in the 41st over, having Ajantha Mendis caught in the deep off a mistimed hoik, and Sri Lanka were all out for 229.

    Tahir returned the best figures for the Proteas, taking 3-50 from seven, but Steyn, Morkel and McLaren all contributed, taking two wickets each.

    Earlier in the day, opening pair Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock started the Proteas’ innings positively, rotating the strike through the early overs, with De Kock hitting a few boundaries, including a six in the ninth over, off Senanayake. However, just as De Kock was looking fluent, he got out to Angelo Mathews in the 13th over, wafting at a ball outside off stump and dragging it on to his stumps for 27. The opener’s frustration was visible as he walked off, hinting that he felt he had missed out on an opportunity for a big total.

    Jacques Kallis then came in, but was back in the hut with a duck three minutes later, playing down the wrong line to a carrom ball from Ajantha Mendis and being caught on the back leg, plumb in front of middle stump.

    After the double strike, Amla and No 4 AB de Villiers steadied the ship,though both survived dropped chances during their innings, with Amla in particular playing superbly. He was reading the pitch well, picking up balls on the up and using his wrists to flick them over the inner ring for four. If the new Test captain is feeling pressure given his elevation to the role, he did not show it today.

    De Villiers was in imperious form too, racing to his half-century off just 52 balls, and once he got there both batsmen upped the pace. During the crucial middle overs they advanced the score to 211-3, before De Villiers chipped Ajantha Mendis to Nuwan Kulasekera at long-off. He ended on 75 from 70 balls.

    Amla, though, continued in fluent manner, reaching his 13th ODI century in 118 balls. It was a classic Amla innings, controlled in the beginning, and quicker after he reached his 50. He was eventually trapped LBW for 109 by Mendis, trying to sweep a straight one. After his century in the warm-up game, it’s clear he is in good form.

    The Proteas ended on 304-5, with David Miller (35) and Ryan McLaren (22) contributing a vital 55-run partnership at the death.

    That target was big enough for the bowlers to defend in the hot afternoon sun, and the Proteas now take the momentum into Wednesday’s day-night game in Palekelle.

    Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix

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    Dan Gillespie