Sri Lanka 299 for 7 (Mathews 97*, Mulder 2-59) beat South Africa 121 (de Kock 54, Akila 6-29) by 178 runs

An all-round dominant performance from Sri Lanka took them to a second consolation win in the series against a South African side whose depth proved shallower than comfortable. Angelo Mathews‘ run-a-ball 97 propelled Sri Lanka to a shave short of 300 on a slow surface before Akila Dananjaya‘s best figures of 6 for 29 had South Africa’s line-up in a spin, again. They were dismissed inside 25 overs for their lowest total in, and against, Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s innings had its foundation rooted in four fifty-run partnerships and its fireworks in the last ten overs. Mathews, with help from Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka, ensured Sri Lanka plundered 93 runs between overs 40 and 50 to ask South Africa to pull off the highest successful chase at this venue and they did not even get close. Quinton de Kock’s second half-century of the series saved some blushes but no other batsman made more than 20.

At the other end, South Africa’s bowling effort was unusual mix of attack and leak with Keshav Maharaj their standout performer. Maharaj put in the most economical performance of his short ODI career as he found turn and proved difficult to get away. Kagiso Rabada, brought into the XI in place of the leading wicket-taker in the series Lungi Ngidi, was the best of the quicks while Junior Dala, Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo shared five wickets between them, but their inexperience showed up as inconsistency.

Rabada and Dala started with five boundary-free overs to build early pressure on the hosts. As though to make up for lost opportunity, Niroshan Dickwella took three fours off Dala’s third over, as he lost his lengths. Dala did have something to celebrate in his second ODI. He claimed his maiden wicket in the format when he held his length back and Upul Tharanga edged to de Kock. The short ball also brought Mulder a wicket, when Kusal Perera slashed at one and sent a catch to cover.

Still, the wickets did not slow the runs and Sri Lanka’s 100 was scored in 101 balls. It was up to Maharaj to pull things back and he did. He was introduced in the 18th over and treated with respect from Mathews, who knew runs would come at the other end. Mathews drove a Phehlukwayo slower ball through mid-on, a Rabada length ball through mid-off and another in the ‘v,’ to establish his authority. Maharaj was rewarded for his persistence when he drew Kusal Mendis forward to play away from his body and found the edge. The fall of that wicket sent Mathews into a shell and another five boundary-free overs were bowled. Sri Lanka scored 48 runs in the 11 overs between 26 and 37 while Maharaj bowled out, conceding his only boundary when Dhananjaya de Silva pulled a long-hop over midwicket, but once he was finished, Sri Lanka could free their arms.

De Silva was too hasty and tried to smack a Mulder slower ball down the ground, and gave Reeza Hendricks at mid-off a high catch but Mathews finished the over by flat-batting Mulder for four to make it clear who was controlling proceedings.

At the end of the 40th over, Mathews brought up his fifty with a single off 66 balls. His next 47 runs came in 31 balls and included delights such as a sweep for six off Duminy, a cut off Phehlukwayo, and an array of pull shots as the young quicks over-relied on the short ball. Thisara Perera didn’t really get going and sliced a cut to Hashim Amla at backward point but Dasun Shanaka’s 15-ball 21 came in handy. Shanaka was dismissed in the final over, when Mathews needed six runs for a century but only managed to three singles, finishing three runs shorts of a first hundred in Sri Lanka and against South Africa. He won’t mind too much because his bowlers finished the opposition off in half the time they had at their disposal.

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