The Proteas completed their first ODI series victory on Sri Lankan soil, winning the third ODI by 82 runs on Saturday.
On a good batting pitch, the Proteas batted first in the series decider, and posted 339-5, with Quinton de Kock hitting 128 and skipper AB de Villiers smashing 108. That was backed up by some tight bowling by Ryan McLaren, who took three wickets, and Imran Tahir, who went for just 29 runs in his 10 overs. Those efforts saw Sri Lanka bowled out for 257. The win completed a 2-1 series victory for the Proteas, something they have never achieved in Sri Lanka.
There was a stiff breeze blowing when AB de Villiers won the toss in the first day game played at Hambantota’s Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket stadium, and it turned into a gale-force wind for most of the day, making it difficult for the seam bowlers from both teams to stick to their lines.
After failing in his first two innings in this series, 21-year-old opener Quinton de Kock would have been desperate to put a big total on the board, and he cashed in.
He and Hashim Amla started the day fluently, attacking danger man Lasith Malinga, forcing Angelo Mathews to remove him from the attack after his first two overs cost 19 runs. The fast bowler struggled all day, conceding 85 from his 10 overs.
The opening pair negotiated the first hour easily, taking advantage of the gusty conditions to hit the ball over the top, and reached their 100 partnership after 17.5 overs. By that time De Kock had already raced to his half-century from 46 balls, and Amla looked set to join him on the landmark in the 22nd over.
However, after the pair chose to take the batting power play early, after just 21 overs, Amla holed out to long-on three balls into the over, falling two short of his fifty.
Jacques Kallis came out at No 3, but hung around for just a few overs, making 4 off 10 balls before being caught in front by a straight one from Rangana Herath. Despite not getting the bat on it, and being hit low in front of middle, he asked for the review, but replays showed he was plumb lbw.
The power play yielded just 16 runs, and the Proteas had to rebuild with De Kock and De Villiers at the crease, which they did with ease. Once again, the presence of De Villiers at the crease saw the run rate jump up to above 6, and stay there for the rest of the innings.
De Kock brought up his fifth ODI century, and fourth in his past six games, off 108 balls, while De Villiers raced to his 50 off 41 balls.
That pair kept the pace up, and smashed a succession of sixes and fours, sharing a partnership of 116, to lead the Proteas to 248 with just over nine overs left in the innings. De Kock was the man to fall, ending a fluent innings by mistiming one to long-off off the bowling of Senanayake.
De Villiers continued the carnage in the final 10 overs, ending on 108 from 71 balls, while JP Duminy played a cameo innings of 29 to help the Proteas post 339-5, a record total against Sri Lanka.
When Sri Lanka came out to bat the opening pair of Kusal Perera and Tillekaratne Dilshan got off to an absolute flyer. Perera in particular flayed Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to all parts, before he holed out to AB de Villiers at long-on off the bowling of Wayne Parnell for a 25-ball innings of 37.
Kumar Sangakarra came to the crease and continued the massacre, getting Sri Lanka to 99-1 after 10 overs. But the introduction of Imran Tahir turned the game on its head.
In his first over, he created doubt in the batsmen’s minds and forced a run out, Sangakarra deciding not to heed Dilshan’s call for a run, and the latter was gone for 30.
In the next over, Ryan McLaren tempted Sangakkara with a short one down leg side, and he edged it to Quinton de Kock behind the stumps. It was an exact copy of his dismissal to the same bowler in the second ODI.
A period of consolidation followed, with Tahir and JP Duminy keeping things tight through the 20th over. Duminy made the next breakthrough in the 25th over, getting one to drift in and turn past left-handed batsman Lahiru Thirimanne’s outside edge, and bowl him.
Captain Angelo Mathews was joined by Ashan Priyanjan at the crease, and the pair batted slowly but steadily for the next 15 overs. They were pegged back by some tight bowling at times, but the Proteas couldn’t get the breakthrough until the 40th over, when Priyanjan edged a slower ball from McLaren to De Kock.
After that, the Lankans never really raised their scoring rate and, despite a hard-fought 58 from Mathews, fell 83 runs short of their target.
The series win will see the Proteas take some momentum and confidence into the two-Test series, which begins in Galle on Wednesday 16 July at 6:30am SA time.
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