Centuries from Faf du Plessis and David Miller set up South Africa’s comprehensive 121-run victory in the second of five One-Day Internationals against Sri Lanka in Durban on Wednesday (February 1).
On a good batting track, South Africa was put in and it didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, posting a formidable 307 for 6. Du Plessis made 105 off 120 balls, while Miller finished the innings with a burst of power-hitting to make 117 not out off 98 deliveries.
Sri Lanka was left to rue the decision during the chase. It had rejigged the opening combination, Upul Tharanga partnering Niroshan Dickwella at the top – a position Tharanga hasn’t batted in for two years – and that it was able to put on a 45-run stand was thanks to poor South African fielding. Tharanga also found himself in the firing line, taking blows on the helmet from Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris.
There were two drops off Wayne Parnell, but third time proved to be lucky as du Plessis made a stunning, one-handed running catch to dismiss Dickwella for 25. Just as bad fielding can prove contagious, so too can brilliant fielding. AB de Villiers was the star this time as he held on to one behind his shoulder while running back to send back Tharanga for 26 and give Parnell a second scalp.
Kusal Mendis then departed to leave Sri Lanka at 74 for 3 in the 14th, closely mirroring South Africa, which had been reduced to 71 for 3 in the 13th over of its innings. But where it deviated from the script was that Sri Lanka had no batsman who would go on to make a big score.
Imran Tahir, who was proving to be impossible to get away with an enviable economy rate of 2.94, snared Dhananjaya de Silva next, luring him forward to have him stumped. Asela Gunaratne tested JP Duminy’s throwing arm from backward point and was run out. And when the experienced Dinesh Chandimal succumbed to Morris for 36, the writing was on the wall at 132 for 6.
Sri Lanka added 54 more runs, with the help of some devil-may-care strokeplay from the tailenders, before it was bowled out for 186 in 37.5 overs, Tahir snapping up the last wicket to finish with 2 for 26 in 8.5 overs while Duminy also picked up two wickets.
Miller reined in his normal attacking instincts as he and du Plessis made steady progress against an assortment of accurate slow and slow-medium bowlers. The pair put on 117 off 136 balls for the fifth wicket before Miller and Morris plundered 60 off 43 balls for the sixth wicket to put South Africa within range of topping 300.
Miller finished the innings strongly, reaching his century in the final over and celebrating with two sixes and a four off Nuwan Kulasekera. He hit six sixes and three fours in his innings.
Du Plessis reached his fifty off 53 balls with five fours and a six but added only two more boundaries and took another 60 deliveries before posting his seventh ODI century.
After Kulasekera and Suranga Lakmal sent down four overs each with the new ball, Sri Lanka opted for spin and the slow medium pace of Asela Gunaratne for most of the rest of the innings, giving the batsmen virtually no pace to work with and making it difficult to hit boundaries.
The big-hitting Miller was relatively subdued but hit a straight six off Sachith Pathirana before going to his half-century, off 54 balls, with two successive sixes off Dhananjaya.
The win gave South Africa a 2-0 lead in the five-match series with the next clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.