Faf du Plessis’s career-best 185 and a four-wicket haul by Wayne Parnell guided South Africa to a 40-run win over Sri Lanka in the fourth One Day International at Newlands on Tuesday (February 7).
Already having gained an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, South Africa took full advantage of good batting conditions after winning the toss. Du Plessis hit his second century of the series and ended only three short of a South African record, as the home side piled up 367 for 5.
However, Sri Lanka showed spirit in the chase, led by Upul Tharanga’s 90-ball 119. However, the reply ended at 327 all out in 48.1 overs, with Parnell’s 4 for 58 doing most of the damage. That meant South Africa remained on track for a series sweep, moving to 4-0 with one game left.
Chasing the daunting total, Sri Lanka got off to its best start of the series with Niroshan Dickwella (58 off 47 balls) and Tharanga, the captain, putting on a 139-run opening stand. Dickwella, who fought a lone battle when his team had collapsed in the third ODI, scored his second consecutive half-century before top-edging a pull against Dwaine Pretorious in the 17th over.
Getting off the mark with a hit through the midwicket boundary, Tharanga played the aggressor to the hilt. Two lofted sixes off JP Duminy were followed by 15 runs off Wayne Parnell as Tharanga soon brought up his half-century off just 25 balls.
Prior to this match, Tharanga had scores of 6, 26 and 31, but he was at his attacking best on Tuesday, bringing up his century from 73 balls and in some style, with back to back sixes off Tabraiz Shamsi. He added 64 runs for the second wicket with Kusal Mendis before the latter was caught behind off Parnell for 29.
Parnell finally got rid of Tharanga two overs later, when the Sri Lanka captain holed out straight to Duminy at backward point. Dhananjaya de Silva was trapped in front by Kagiso Rabada soon after, but Sandun Weerakoddy and Asela Gunaratne were unfazed by the regular strikes.
Playing only his second ODI, Weerakoddy brought up his maiden half-century off 46 balls, and shared a 73-run fifth-wicket partnership with Gunaratne to push Sri Lanka past the 300-run mark. With 96 required off the last ten overs, Sri Lanka looked on course to chase the target. But Rabada got a breakthrough with Gunaratne’s wicket, and Imran Tahir’s double strike in the 45th over triggered an implosion that Sri Lanka failed to recover from.
Sri Lanka lost its last five wickets for the addition of just 20 runs.
Earlier, du Plessis made his runs off 141 balls as he smashed 16 fours and three sixes during his stay at the crease. He was caught at long-on off the first ball of the last over, trying to clear the boundary with a hit which would have taken him past Gary Kirsten’s long-standing South African record of 188 not out, which he made against the United Arab Emirates in Rawalpindi during the 1996 World Cup.
Du Plessis shared century partnerships with Quinton de Kock (55) and AB de Villiers, the captain.
Sri Lanka’s hopes flickered briefly when Hashim Amla was caught at first slip off Lahiru Kumara for 1 and South Africa was able to score only four runs in the first three overs. But it all went downhill post that, as du Plessis and de Kock quickly gained control, with the left-handed de Kock finding form for the first time in the series, reaching a half-century off only 40 balls, as he and du Plessis put on 100 off 87 balls for the second wicket.
De Kock hit seven fours and two sixes in his 46-ball innings before he was caught at slip off Sachith Pathirana, the left-arm spinner.
Du Plessis and de Villiers then added 137 off 122 balls for the third wicket, before de Villiers missed a sweep against Pathirana and was bowled for 64 off 62 balls. He hit four fours during his stay at the crease.
Pathirana was Sri Lanka’s most successful bowler, taking 2 for 55 and conceding only two boundaries in his ten overs.