When AB de Villiers and his team set off for the shores of Sri Lanka, they knew the tough challenge that was facing them. But, just one game into the series, and their headaches have increased manifold. If the opening ODI of the series played at Colombo was anything to go by, South Africa are going of have an extremely difficult time in the coming days. With the bat as well as with the ball, the Proteas were completely out of sorts. It was a thoroughly disheartening performance to put it bluntly.
With Dale Steyn having been ruled out of the ongoing tour, the South African bowling was always expected struggle. But, following the massive loss at Colombo their worries would only have increased further. In Steyn’s absence, Morne Morkel will have to shoulder a major portion of the responsibility. Morkel did come up with a very impressive performance in the opening ODI. However, the rest were clearly undercooked. Chris Morris, in particular, was pedestrian, being thrashed for nearly nine runs an over. Ryan McLaren, who has a little more experience, was also below par. The others bowlers in the team too failed to make any kind of impression, which doesn’t augur well for South Africa.
If the Proteas’ bowling in the opening ODI was ineffective, their batting also crumbled under the pressure of runs. The absence of Hashim Amla, who was ruled out of the game due to injury, and that of Graeme Smith, who is not part of the tour at all, was definitely felt. Ever since opener Colin Ingram departed to the first ball of South Africa’s chase, the visitors were always on the back foot. With such a huge score to chase, what they needed was for one massive partnership to develop out in the middle, but that never came.
Although one must say that it was their bowling which cost South Africa the game, it is also equally true that their batsmen also did not live up to the big challenge. With a couple of their inexperienced stars not in the squad, they needed some of the other seniors to stand up. But, that did not turn out to be the case. Alviro Peterson, JP Duminy and even their skipper de Villiers all got starts, but not one of them managed to carry on and compile a substantial score.
In stark contrast, Sri Lanka were completely at home, and their expertise under the conditions was clearly on show. With the bat, it was one man who stole the show. Kumar Sangakkara played an astounding knock without doubt. The left-hander is now in his 30s, but his batting only seems to be getting better than age. His knock against South Africa was nearly flawless, and set up the win for the hosts in an almost unblemished manner. Their bowlers had a much easier task, but full credit to them for not letting the Proteas settle into any kind of rhythm. In the end, Sri Lanka demonstrated how dominant they can be at home.
--By A Cricket Analyst