Sri Lanka triumph in thrilling climax

Courtesy: International Cricket Council

Sachithra Senanayake struck a six off the penultimate ball to give Sri Lanka a two-wicket triumph over South Africa Sunday in the final match of a five one-day international series won 3-2 by the hosts.

Captain AB de Villiers and predecessor Graeme Smith (125 each) struck tons as South Africa made 312-4, but a century from Kumar Sangakkara (102) led the tourists to 314-8 at the Wanderers and a second win within three days.

Sri Lanka appeared to be cruising until Sangakkara became the fourth wicket to fall with 275 runs on the board and a late South Africa rally saw them grab two wickets within three balls during the final over.

It left the tourists needing five runs from two balls to succeed and Senanayake hit Robin Peterson for a six to snatch victory in a thrilling climax to the two-month tour.

De Villiers’ ploy to bowl a spinner in the final over was a courageous one. Peterson showed great character by flighting his first ball and bowling Nuwan Kulasekara first ball.

This was followed by a single and then Lahiru Thirimanne was caught at short thirdman going for another big stroke.

Senanayake, batting for Sri Lanka for the first time, blocked his first ball before slogging his second over midwicket for six to finish the game.

“We came back strongly at the end of our tour and needed to prove a point after being bowled out for 43 in the first ODI,” said Sri Lanka skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan.

“Chasing 313 runs for victory meant it was always going to be tight and I am so proud of my team. We had a fantastic time in South Africa and it was just a pity that we lost the Test and one-day series narrowly.”

Man-of-the-series De Villiers said: “We have a lot to work on before touring New Zealand next month, but I am very happy with the way the team fought to the end.”

Sangakkara struck 10 fours in a maiden ODI ton against South Africa and there were also valuable contributions from Thirimanne (69), Upul Tharanga (46) and skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan (41).

De Villiers and Smith excelled as South Africa recovered from a sluggish early run rate having being sent in to bat by Dilshan in a match delayed for one hour by rain early in the Sri Lankan innings.

De Villiers finished unbeaten after facing 98 deliveries while Smith received a standing ovation from the sell-out 30,000 crowd after being caught by Dinesh Chandimal at mid-wicket off the bowling of Lasith Malinga.

While the Proteas skipper confirmed his position as one of the best stroke players in the world today with 10 fours and four sixes, Smith could not contain his joy as he walked off after a timely first ODI ton in three years.

There was a media and public outcry against him just a week ago after innings of six, 28 and two in the first three matches of the series before he stopped the rot with a brisk 68 in Kimberley two days ago.

Smith embroidered his innings with nine fours and four sixes off 143 balls during a 203-minute stand and the sun-drenched crowd revelled in his change of fortune.

South Africa lost opener Alviro Petersen (6) with only 10 runs on the board and were 70-2 when Faf du Plessis (24) departed before De Villiers and Smith took charge.

The Proteas stood at 133-2 after 30 overs and a run rate of 4.43 needed improvement on a good batting track, which the captains past and present duly did with 44 runs coming during a power play soon after.

  • walkthetalk

    Should include jeewan mendis to number 3 and see if he can deliver what sl needs rather than brnging him 6 down where he has to score from the first bowl.. Yes if he delivers that then we have a vital player who also can spin the bowl very well(sl”s best spinner in the pak odi series)…well thts what mohmmed hafeez does for pakistan.. I think if we want to build another quality batsman then seniors should allow the youngsters to get some experience.. like SA did experiment alot in the final 3 odis. the risk they took was worth it.. Shaminda ernaga impressed us alot he should be used in manner where he will not get injured .. Remember in Australia and New Zealand fast bowlers are vital because the pitches assist them alot than spinners.. Next WC is the key for SL while been in top 4 in the rankings would be nice too :)

  • PremasiriS

    The No 3 -5 should be given to strokes filled young batsmen blessed with quick reflexes who can carry the bat to the end (by removing both Mahela and Sangakkara from those most vital positions in the batting order), who doesn’t throw their wicket away after getting well set and at the times their services are most needed. How many times have we seen these two veterans getting out reckless fashion in dragging the whole team into deep trouble as Sangakkara did yesterday? It is always difficult for a new batter to middle the ball from the first ball he faces particularly late hours in the night. It is very unreasonable for a quality batsman the class of Mthews being wasted in sending him to bat very low down in the batting order. He is in a position do the finishing job better if he had been given more time to get himself in like he did it in Australia. The veteran players being slow in reflex, it is better for them to come to bat after the ball gets old.

    • S Perera

      I agree that Sanga should not be sent up the order as he is far too important player to be lost in the early overs. In this form of cricket you need a player whom can defend as well as attack but I do not think Mathews is the answer. Mathews may have quick reflexes but his feet are all over the place when batting (please watch him the next time when he is on the crease). I remember I was having the same problem at the early stage if my batting but I was not a good cricketer. I have no idea whom in our team can hold the number three position other than Sanga but he is far too important of a player to be lost cheaply. In fact, in my opinion we have the order correct, with our limited resources, but we need the openers to take the shine off the ball. Dilshan should come number 5 and in his place we need a good solid opener.

  • S Perera

    I am particularly pleased for Dilshan given that you can really see the anguish in his face when Sri Lanka is not performing. The type of player that he is means that he’ll have good and bad days but boy when he plays well, it’s a joy to watch. I wish him best iof luck as a player but think he should give-up captaincy and hand it back to Sanga, if he wants it. If doesn’t want it, then we are in trouble because I can’t see a leader, especially not the current vice captain (Mathews).

    The problem for Sri Lanka is the age of the team. Whilst we have one or two youngsters with potential, there are a lot of players reaching end of their careers. The void that will be left by the likes of Sangakkara, Dilshan, Jayawardene and Samaraweera can’t be filled with the current 1st 11. My suggestion is that we need to bring in fresh tallent quickly through the ranks like Jeevan Mendis etc.