Despite a career-best 4-19 from Lungi Ngidi, the Proteas couldn’t prevent a three-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka.
The three-match series will go down to a decider in Cape Town on Wednesday, after Sri Lanka did just enough to squeeze out the 114 runs required for victory in a last-over thriller.
It was the heroics of their captain Angelo Mathews who got them over the line, keeping them afloat as wickets fell around him, before striking two sixes in the final over. He peeled off the winning runs despite not being able to run, after straining his hamstring the over before. The last six took him to his fifth T20 half-century, and the victory.
After Ngidi’s Man of the Match performance on debut in Centurion on Friday, he bettered his 2-12 with 4-19 in Johannesburg – his best figures in the format. It was the batsmen he dismissed that made his performance so special as he saw off both openers, as well as key pair Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal. It’s just a shame the batsmen couldn’t come to the party too.
It became clear from the onset that this was going to be a useful track for the slow bowlers, and debutant Chinaman Lakshan Sandakan tucked in, becoming the second bowler in T20 history to take a wicket off his first ball, before sealing the eighth-best figures on debut – 4-23.
Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekera bowled tidily up front, with the latter accounting for Jon Jon Smuts for four off eight deliveries.
The majority of South Africa’s wickets were the batsmen’s fault. Theunis de Bruyn flicked one straight to the only man on the boundary to walk for seven, before Sandakan got involved and wiped away the middle order.
Mangaliso Mosehle (11) would be his first victim, before he stumped Heino Kuhn for a valiant 29. David Miller (11) followed Kuhn back to the hut, and then, bizarrely, Wayne Parnell (3) and Andile Phehlukwayo (0) both attempted reverse sweeps off Sandakan, and found the edge on both occasions.
That left skipper Farhaan Behardien to battle on his own, and did well to take his side past 100-mark, striking up a crucial 33-run stand with Aaron Phangiso. When Isuru Udana saw off Behardien for 27, the tail were left to feed on scraps as they laboured to 113.
The response was shaky throughout, but it was Mathews who kept them going. The tourists were at one point on 35-3 thanks to Ngidi, but Mathews stabilised matters with a 50-run stand with Chandimal.
Then came another flurry of wickets, with Imran Tahir putting in an excellent shift of 1-14 from his allotted overs. He backed that up with an excellent catch on the boundary, to hand Smuts his first international wicket.
A run a ball was needed with two overs remaining, and it was down to Mathews to finish it off. Despite losing partners around him to silly shots, the skipper battled on. In his attempt to get to the striker’s end his dive saw him stretch his hamstring which prevented him from being able to run.
Smuts was tasked with bowling the final over, and he could have been the hero were it not for Kuhn putting down a tough chance in the deep off the first ball, but questions will now be asked as to why Behardien opted for a spinner seeing as boundaries were Mathews’ only way of scoring runs. He saw his side to victory with two balls remaining.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images