This Sri Lankan series defining 5-wicket triumph over South Africa in the decisive third T20 match is the fruition from an agony to the ecstatic rising from the dumps champagne flowing celebrative affair for the Sri Lankan camp.
For, there was Sri Lanka on a tour groping, morale dampening curve losing the Test series 0-3, and the T20 opener with only a few individual performances to smile about. In that scenario, breaking the drought by 3-wickets in the second game was heartening on a flowing half century by skipper Angelo Mathews. But that joy being short lived with the bad news that the captain had a sidelining sprained ankle putting him out of action, was indeed smarting. Sri Lanka was staring at an aces up South African opposition beefed up by the return from injury of their pulsating ODI run machine A.B. de Valliers for the crunch match. No Mathews, and an out of form frontline batting cast in a relative new look composition fronting the island nation’s new generation cricketers, certainly it looked a tall order going past an own backyard fired up South Africans.
But there was this relative new blood team producing the stuff at Cape Town’s Newlands grounds in one of the best setting venues coming up with a black magic type of win having been driven to the back foot by what was a match winning total of 163 when the hosts batted first. What is more the run machine De Valliers had fired with what looked like a 63-run knock that had sealed things in favour of South Africa. To come out of such a dark cloud and prevail is what makes this contest between bat and ball look so classic in what is fittingly coined the ‘Glorious Uncertainties of Cricket’. And, that that it had to be an unlikely hero in Niroshan Dickwella, a player overlooked for the Test series despite knocking on the door for recognition, was the ideal script to one of cricket’s soul stirring triumphs. That he benefitted from two dropped chances was one of those usual parts of the game where batsmen live to carry their side through as did Dickwella with a 51-ball 68 in 63 minutes inclusive of 10 boundaries and a six which exemplify how punishing the batsman was.
Here was stuff standing right up front and delivering to carry Sri Lanka home. And, there was the veteran in the cast Upul Tharanga lending the foundation laying 36-run support for the first wicket with a brisk 20 containing 4 boundaries. As the stand in captain Dinesh Chandimal, and young batting star Kusal Mendis fell cheaply in what was another bad patch for the latter, that utility player Seekuge Prasanna put the final icing on the cake with a whirlwind 16-ball 37 spanning 3 lusty shots over the ropes and 3 boundaries was indeed a cameo ending to uncork the champagne bottles in consigning the strong South Africans to a comprehensive defeat. Dhanushka De Silva lent 16 runs to that cause. Dickwella must surely have made a statement to the selectors as he celebrated with the double awards of ‘Player of the Match’ and ‘Player of the Series.’ For Upul Tharanga, named as the ODI captain for the concluding series, his contribution to the result must be morale boosting being given the stand by job at age 31; an obvious selectors’ certificate for a job well done in the series triumph in Zimbabwe.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-