Batting has been the chief cause of Sri Lanka’s failure in the T20 series against South Africa. On Tuesday at Hambantota though they demonstrated how good they can be on occasions when they get their act right. With the series already out of their hands, the hosts would have been desperate for a consolation win. South Africa’s best batting performance in the series however made their task tougher. The fact that Sri Lanka’s batsmen had performed woefully in the previous two games gave the Proteas a distinct advantage. But, Sri Lanka clearly outdid them with the bat.
When South Africa’s innings ended, the momentum was clearly on their side since Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy had come up with attacking half-centuries. However, it needed only six overs for the game to swing in Sri Lanka’s favour. This was done courtesy some spectacular batting by their openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene. We all know how dangerous Dilshan and Jayawardene can be as a pair at the top of the innings, and they proved just why they are rated so highly in the format. Both batted without any fear, and took the attack into the opposition camp, making the South African attack look all but toothless.
South Africa did fight back exceedingly well once they got rid of Jayawardene. David Wiese in particular was top class keeping the runs down and picking up a couple of important scalps. His spell brought the visitors back into the match. However, the explosive opening partnership had given Sri Lanka the cushion of wickets. Even when the wickets were falling they knew that the only needed one good over the turn the tide back in their favour. Thisara Perera did exactly that by blasting Wayne Parnell all over the park. That smashing over clinched the deal for Sri Lanka.
It was South Africa’s bowling which had won them the previous two games and, with it the series. Ironically, it were the same bowlers who were responsible for South Africa’s defeat on Tuesday. Right from the start, the visitors were off-colour. Lonwabo Tsotsobe sprayed the ball all over the place, and even the experienced Morne Morkel couldn’t stop the floodgates. Parnell was decent for most part, but his one bad over, in which he was taken to the cleaners cost South Africa a 3-0 whitewash.
In spite of the disappointing loss, South Africa had plenty to gain from the short series, particularly after the disaster in the ODIs. The biggest plus was the form of JP Duminy who excelled with the bat in each and every game, and even chipped in with the ball at crucial junctures. David Miller played one knock to justify his rising stature in T20 cricket while skipper du Plessis came to the party in the final game. But for Tuesday’s performance, their bowling was also impressive. Everyone from Tsotsobe to Morkel and Tahir chipped in. In the end, the 2-1 scoreline was a fair refection of their supremacy over the Lankans.
--By A Cricket Analyst