When South Africa embarked on their one-day tour to Sri Lanka, they always touted as the underdogs. The Proteas have a poor record in the Asian nation, having struggled on the low and slow spinning pitches. This series was going to be even more difficult for them owing to the absence of their two stalwarts – former skipper Graeme Smith and speedster Dale Steyn. And, as expected, the Proteas felt the loss of both the experienced men, and have clearly been outplayed as the hosts clinched the one-day series with one match to go.
There was a slight ray of hope for South Africa when they clinched the third ODI, and kept themselves alive in the tournament with an impressive bowling performance. However, their batting let them down in the do-or-die clash at Pallekele on Sunday, and this time there was no respite for them as the Sri Lankan batsmen drew home the advantage. Poor batting in fact has been South Africa’s bane throughout the series, and in the fourth match they had a chance to build on a great start. However, they floundered away the advantage, and with it the series as well.
In Smith and Steyn’s absence, the performance of Hashim Amla was going to be of paramount importance, but the South Africans were unlucky in his case as well. He had to miss a couple of matches due to injury and could not bat in one even though he was a part of the playing eleven. In Amla’s absence, South Africa’s batting was only weakened. His return to the squad for the fourth game immediately strengthened South Africa’s batting, and he straightaway made an impact playing an innings of high quality at Pallekele. South Africa have only themselves to blame that they couldn’t build on the start he gave them.
The chief reason why South Africa lost the fourth ODI was because the visitors could not continue the good work done by Amla and JP Duminy. Once Amla departed, Duminy was left to fight a lone battle. The fact that they collapsed from 118 for 1 to 238 all out tells a story in itself. Also, the stat that Duminy could not get his hundred in spite of batting almost till the end of the innings demonstrates how little support he got from the rest of the batsmen. The performance of skipper AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis was, in particularly, disappointing, as it has been throughout the series.
South Africa’s bowlers have done better than their batters throughout the series, and they were the ones who kept the team alive in the series. But, they also were bound to have a bad day. Unfortunately, that occasion came on Sunday, and cost South Africa the series. The Proteas bowlers conceded as many as 17 wides in the match, an indication of how wayward they were on the day. Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe went for plenty of runs, and once Dilshan and Sangakkara got their eye in, there was no way out for the South Africans.
--By A Cricket Analyst