JOHANNESBURG – South Africa flirted with victory in the opening One-day International, but an untimely injury to captain Temba Bavuma, and a gutsy fightback by the home team’s bowlers gained Sri Lanka the advantage in the three match series.
The Proteas had managed their run chase well, especially during a second wicket partnership of 117 between Bavuma and Aiden Markram, who played superbly to make 96. However Bavuma, was struck on the hand by a throw from a close-in fielder – immediately requiring it to be iced – and a few overs later, left the field.
At that point South Africa was on 155/1, still a long way from the challenging target set by the hosts, but the rhythm of the innings had changed. The slowness of the surface meant it took Rassie van der Dussen – in fact every new batsmen a while to get set – while the humid conditions were proving physically challenging for Markram.
The opener was magnificent, deserving of the four extra runs that would have ensured a maiden ODI hundred. He struck the shot of the match in the seventh over, pulling Dushmantha Chameera dismissively for six over midwicket. It was the first of four sixes by Markram, who’s play against spin bowling has improved markedly this year. While he was at the crease South Africa were in control.
He and Bavuma had played smartly in their partnership with the South African captain happy to take singles and hand the strike to his quick scoring partner. As Bavuma grew accustomed to conditions, he played more expansively, but just as that partnership was dominating proceedings, misfortune struck the tourists with Bavuma leaving the field when on 38.
Markram fell to a magnificent catch on the cover boundary, with Waninda Hasranga having to dive forward, scooping the ball up at ankle height. Markam’s 96, came off only 90 balls and included five fours and four sixes.
The tourists stated later that he would return to bat, but that never happened and after the match he was taken for scans. Van der Dussen played well to make 59 – sweeping and reversing the ball brilliantly – but he really needed to bat through to the last over for South Africa to win.
Chamira Karunaratne bowled an excellent 48th over conceding just six runs, which proved to be the nail in the Proteas coffin.
Sri Lanka’s total was built around a fine century by opener Avishka Fernando, who managed his and the team’s innings superbly.
He took advantage of South Africa’s new ball bowlers being too short with their lengths and when the spinners, led by Keshav Maharaj, who cleverly utilised the slow surface, got on top, Avishka stayed patient.
He shared a partnership of 80 for the third wicket with Dhananjaya da Silva (44) – which occurred around a 30 minute break for rain – that laid the perfect platform. Once Maharaj had completed his spell – by the 31st over having dismissed Da Silva with his third last ball to finish with figures of 2/30 – Avishka took charge, with the best shot of his innings, a powerful flick for six over midwicket off Kagiso Rabada.
The 23 year old raised his bat for a deserved century in the 41st over. It was the third of his career and his first in a year. A very classy and composed innings saw him take advantage early, show patience through the middle and then he lifted the scoring as the Sri Lankans entered the last 10 overs.
He was eventually dismissed in the 43rd over for 118, which came off 114 balls, hitting 10 fours and two sixes. Avishka’s partnership of 96 for the fourth wicket with young Charith Asalanka (72) gave the innings the necessary impetus.
Aside from Maharaj, South Africa’s bowling was disappointing. Again the ‘death bowling’ was poor with lengths missed far too regularly, allowing the hosts to score 53 runs in the last five overs.
Sri Lanka 300/9: Avishka Fernando 115, Charith Asalanka 72, Keshav Maharak 2/30, Kagiso Rabada 2/66
South Africa 286/6: Aiden Markram 96, Rassie van der Dussen 59, Akila Dananjaya 2/65 Chamika Karunaratne 1/18.
Sri Lanka win by 14 runs