Angelo Mathews played a superb captain’s innings to guide Sri Lanka to 299-8 in the fifth ODI against the Proteas.
On a beautiful batting surface, Kagiso Rabada started off looking somewhat weary after his short lay-off, but he was back to his lethal best to end his first four overs with just 11 runs off the bat.
Sri Lanka have struggled with their opening partnerships in the past three years, but Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga put together a stand of fifty for the first wicket before Tharanga became Junior Dala’s first ODI wicket, caught behind by Quinton de Kock for 19 off 18 balls.
Kusal Perera fell to a simple catch by Heinrich Klaasen off Wiaan Mulder for eight to give the Proteas all-rounder his fifth ODI wicket in what is starting to look like a promising career for the young man.
Dickwella and Kusal Mendis also added 50 runs before the opener fell, caught by De Kock for 43 (off 65 balls), with Andile Phehlukwayo picking up his 34th ODI wicket to continue his fine form in the series.
Superb bowling and captaincy by the Proteas kept the Sri Lankan batters in check, and with Keshav Maharaj spinning a web around the hosts, the Proteas dominated the second powerplay. Maharaj’s first seven overs cost just 21 runs and took the wicket of Mendis for 38 off 43 balls.
Sri Lanka skipper Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva added 53 for the fifth wicket before Mulder picked up his second wicket, Reeza Hendricks taking a good catch off a steepling mis-hit from De Silva (30 off 41 balls).
Mathews continued to dominate the Proteas bowling, adding 52 with Thisara Perera to register Sri Lanka’s fourth half-century stand before Hashim Amla caught Perera off Phehlukwayo to put Sri Lanka at 247-6 just inside the 45th over.
Rabada was exceptional in the 46th over, restricting the batsmen to four singles, but the Sri Lankans took 15 runs off the next over from Phehlukwayo, with Dasun Shanaka (Sri Lanka’s game-changer in the fourth ODI) taking nine of those runs, before hitting Rabada for a six off the 48th over, which went for 14 runs – six of which were byes or leg byes.
Shanaka was caught by JP Duminy after hitting Rabada down the ground off the second ball of the last over, having scored a breezy 21 off 15 balls. Mathews hit the last ball of the innings for a single to end undefeated on 97 with Sri Lanka on 299-7. On a beautiful batting strip, it looks like a most gettable target, but it would also be the highest run chase on the ground. In addition, the pitch has visibly slowed down during the innings, which may prove a factor in making the job of the Proteas batters a lot more difficult.
Rabada’s excellent figures were damaged by the flurry of Sri Lankan hitting in the final few overs, but he still ended with the respectable figures of 1-47 off his 10 overs (econ 4.70). Maharaj also played a key role in tying up the Sri Lankan batsmen, recording figures of 10-0-32-1 (econ 3.20), but the rest of the Proteas bowlers all went for more than six to the over.
Commenting on Supersport, former Proteas captain Kepler Wessels said he felt that too much was expected of Quinton de Kock to take the role of captain as well as being the wicketkeeper and opening batsman. The question was whether Klaasen should perhaps have been given the gloves so that De Kock could focus on the captaincy.
‘Someone else should captain – that’s basically the best decision to make. Don’t give him too many things to worry about – he’s an instinctive, natural player,’ added Wessels. Really good advice for cricketers at all levels to think about. So often the best player is made captain but it affects his or her game.
De Kock took three catches in the innings and captained well, so although Wessels’ comments (as always) carry great value, De Kock has proven himself capable of managing two of the roles well at the same time. The Proteas will hope he succeeds with the bat if they are to take the series 4-1.
Wessels also felt that it was a mistake to leave David Miller out as he is a natural one-day player who needs the experience ahead of the World Cup. Wessels commented that it would have been a better decision to give Amla a rest as he has played every match on tour, whereas Miller could have used the extra time in the middle.
Photo: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images