Having tasted success in England, Sri Lanka began the home series against South Africa on a high. The fact that South Africa had never tasted success in Sri Lanka in the one-dayers before also went in the home team’s favour. But, the Lankans couldn’t utilise the advantages they had, and ended up losing their first ever one-day series to the South Africans at home. Without doubt, the visitors batted exceptionally well to take the series away from the Lankans. However, the Lankans themselves did not help their cause, putting up a poor all-round show.
Lack of runs in the batting department was the main reason behind Sri Lanka’s somewhat shock loss in the series. While South Africa had a total of four centuries during the course of the three matches, Sri Lanka did not manage even one. Kumar Sangakkara’s 88 in the opening game of the series was the highest score for them followed by Tillakaratne Dilshan’s 86 in the second match. While those aren’t bad scores, the consistency which South African batsmen showed during the course of the series was missing as far as Sri Lanka were concerned.
It wasn’t as if the Lankan batsmen struggled during the course of the series. In fact, a number of them got bright starts, but failed to convert the same. In the opening game, openers Dilshan and Kushal Perera got 40 and 34 respectively before being dismissed as Sri Lanka were all out for a disappointing 229. Although the Lankans won the second game, their batting display wasn’t highly impressive. Apart from Dilshan’s 86, Thirmanne, Jayawardene and Mathews all got starts, but fell before crossing fifty. At Hambantota in the decider, they succumbed for 257. Mathews got a fifty, but four batsmen fell in their 30s.
Undoubtedly, the poor batting had a major role to play in Sri Lanka’s defeat, but their bowling wasn’t of the highest quality either. In two of the three matches, they allowed South Africa to cross 300. Lasith Malinga’s terrible form contributed to Lanka’s downfall. At Colombo, he gave away 52 runs in 7 overs, and at Hambantota he was taken for 85 in his 10. At Pallekele, he claimed 4 for 24, which inspired Lanka’s victory, again reiterating how crucial he is to the team’s cause. Dilshan’s all-round effort at Pallekele was among the few bright spots for the Lankans in an otherwise disappointing series. They will now have to pick themselves up for the Test matches.
--By A Cricket Analyst