Faf du Plessis’ record-breaking 185 set up a 40-run victory for the Proteas to go one step closer to a series whitewash.
The Proteas have now made it 10 ODI wins in a row and a record-breaking 13 consecutive victories at home, and sit one win away from making it 5-0 and wrapping up the No 1 ODI ranking. Not bad for a day’s work. Especially if you’re called Faf du Plessis.
The only thing lacking from his epic was the ultimate, 21-year South African record that Gary Kirsten continues to hold – the highest individual score.
Du Plessis fell three runs short of the 188 Kirsten amassed against the UAE in 1996, but what the Test skipper did do was put together the highest ever score at Newlands, and comfortably pass his previous best score of 133 not out. In fact, it was the best score he’s produced in any form of professional cricket.
He found willing partners throughout his knock as Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers made brisk fifties to get their side to 367-5, cruising past the previous Newlands record of 354-3 that South Africa posted against Kenya in 2001.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. At various parts of Sri Lanka’s innings the tourists looked like a remarkable victory could be on the cards, but the Proteas, pushed for the first time in this series, held their nerve. They’ll go to Centurion on Friday aiming for successive 5-0 whitewash victories.
Tabraiz Shamsi and Wayne Parnell were brought in at the expense of Andile Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris, and at a ground that has seen the team batting first win 22 of the last 28 matches, AB de Villiers decided to have take strike.
Hashim Amla fell for one, but it was just one explosive partnership after another from there, with all but one of them involving Du Plessis.
Du Plessis and De Kock put exactly 100 runs on the board as De Kock smashed his way to 50 off just 40 balls. When De Kock fell to trying one big shot too many, De Villiers then combined with his partner in crime to put on another brisk 137. Their effectiveness as a pair at the crease was telling, with the fact that they contributed 49 runs apiece when they reached their century stand.
The skipper brought up his 50th ODI fifty, before Du Plessis made it eight career tons, and none were nearly as emphatic as this one.
A late siege from Farhaan Behardien (36 off 20 balls) followed De Villiers’ 64, before Du Plessis fell in the last over with the SA record beckoning. 368 was the target.
The response from the Sri Lankans was excellent. For a side that have failed to post more than 200 in the series so far, captain Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella showed what’s been lacking throughout the whole tour.
The pair put on their side’s largest total after 10 overs since 2001, blasting 100 as the required run rate was brought down to as low as 6.7 an over. Tharanga did something no other Sri Lankan batsman has done on this tour – score a century. It came off 73 balls, and it was brilliantly done, making full use of the fielding restriction in the PowerPlay overs.
Dickwella departed for 58 as Pretorius found the breakthrough, but Tharanga and Kusal Mendis pushed on, hitting a fifty stand off 46 balls.
Sri Lanka went past 200 and the chase looked well and truly on, but then it all fell apart is the space of a few overs, and it would be Parnell to be the catalyst. He accounted for Mendis (29) and Tharanga (119) in back-to-back overs to set the visitors back.
From there it became a forlorn task as the required rate escalated. Sandy Weerakkody (58) and Asela Gunaratne (38) gave them a chance with a 79-run stand, but they too fell in quick succession, sparking a lower-order collapse.
Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada weighed in with a couple of wickets apiece to eventually bowl them out for 327, leaving them 40 runs short.
While the bowling was found wanting at times, it was a complete batting performance from the South Africans, equalling the 50-over record for the fewest dot balls in their innings – 90. Just another record stat that put the gloss on yet another win.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images