Sri Lanka broke their 11-match losing streak against the Proteas with a three-run victory in the fourth ODI in Kandy.
The fourth ODI between the Proteas and Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium produced the best contest of the tour.
Despite the match being interrupted by rain, it was the batting displays from both sides that entertained the crowd. The hosts, in particular, impressed with their best batting display of the series as they scored 306-7 in their reduced allocation of 39 overs.
The Sri Lankan innings was highlighted by a quick start and a powerful finish as they set their highest total in the series. Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga got their team off to a strong start before Dickwella fell for 34 off 35 balls with the score on 61 (11.3 overs).
A stutter in the middle overs saw the hosts stumble to 103-3 before Kusal Perera’s 32-ball 51 lifted his side to 195-6, despite losing his captain Angelo Mathews (22) and Dhananjaya de Silva (10) en route to his half-century.
However, it was the stunning 109-run partnership between Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka that brought the match-winning entertainment. This included two half-centuries in the form of a 34-ball 65 from Shanaka (4×4, 5×6, S/R 191.17) and 51 off 45 balls (3×4, 2×6, S/R 113.33) from Perera.
Lungi Ngidi (2-65) and JP Duminy (2-35) were the Proteas’ best bowlers.
The Proteas came out aggressively in their chase, although their innings was also hampered by rain, with Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla forced to walk off after two overs with 21 on the board.
After the break for rain, the revised target was set to 191, with the contest reduced to 21 overs. The interruptions seemed to affect the Proteas more than they did Sri Lanka, as De Kock was bowled on 22 after missing a waist-high Suranga Lakmal full toss that crashed into his off-stump. Reeza Hendricks fell shortly after trying to force the pace, losing his wicket to Shanaka for two.
Stand-in T20 skipper JP Duminy came to the crease with the Proteas’ score on 51-2 after 4.4 overs. Amla continued to bat well as he guided the Proteas past the 100-run mark before he hit a catch straight to the point fielder after a whirlwind 23-ball 40.
Heinrich Klaasen contributed a breezy 17 off 13 balls before he hit it to Mathews at extra cover, who took a magnificent catch, with Duminy the next to go when he ran himself out on 38 off 23 balls.
Andile Phehlukwayo was bowled shortly thereafter for nine, with Thisara hitting his middle stump to reduce South Africa to 149-5.
Wiaan Mulder got off the mark with a boundary but struggled to score from his next couple of deliveries, and he was dismissed without adding to his score when he pulled a Lakmal delivery to De Silva at short mid-wicket, the fielder leaping to his left to complete an extraordinary catch.
Keshav Maharaj found his form with the bat, hitting a four off a free hit to bring the margin closer, leaving the Proteas needing 29 runs off the last three overs. Two singles and an additional three runs reduced the target to a comfortable 24 off 18 balls.
The pair reduced the margin to eight off seven balls before Maharaj was bowled by Thisara off the last ball of the second-last over.
The pressure fell on the hard-hitting David Miller to score eight runs off the last six balls of the match, but he swung and missed at a slower delivery from Suranga Lakmal and was bowled on 21. Ngidi took a single to reduce the target to seven off three balls, but a dot ball and two runs off the next delivery left debutant Junior Dala needing a six off the final ball for victory.
Dala managed only a single as a jubilant Sri Lanka celebrated their hard-fought three-run victory.
Sri Lanka 306-7 (39 overs) – Dasun Shanaka 65, Thisara Perera 51*, Kusal Perera 51; Lungi Ngidi 2-65, JP Duminy 2-35
Proteas 187-9 (21 overs, D/L Method) – Hashim Amla 40, JP Duminy 38; Thisara Perera 2-32, Suranga Lakmal 3-46.
Photo: Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images