SA let victory slip against Sri Lanka

Kandy was not a good place to be a bowler on Wednesday, not with runs raining like the misty mountain showers that took 40 overs out of the fourth oneday international.

That was first true while Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka were launching SA’s bowlers to and beyond all parts in a seventh-wicket stand of 109 that set the scorebook on fire for 68 deliveries.

Thus were Sri Lanka propelled to 306/7 in their 39 overs. The creative accounting of Duckworth and Lewis set SA a target of 191 from 21.

JP Duminy’s 38, more sweetly struck than anything else he has done in four innings in which he has twice passed 50, was the closest the visitors came to matching Shanaka’s dominance in their reply of 187/9.

Sri Lanka’s win, by three runs, was their first in an ODI against SA in a dozen attempts.

But the visitors should have won, with them needing 63 off the last 54 balls of the game with seven wickets in hand.

Then the ominous 13th over claimed the wickets of the threatening Heinrich Klaasen and Duminy, and with them went SA’s momentum.

Seven wickets crashed for 75 runs in 65 balls in what would have been added to SA’s damning list of chokes had it not happened in a game that did not matter because they have already won the series.

The fuel for the home side’s blaze was the bat of Shanaka.

Where the hell has he been, you might have thought as he lashed 65, his maiden half-century, off 34 balls – four of them hit for four, five for six, and only seven of them dots. And of the latter, just three could be described as defensive.

Shanaka hit the ball with irresistible confidence, and towards the end of the innings he even had the unpanickable Quinton de Kock – SA’s captain, remember – staring down hard at his arms folded tightly across his chest.

Neither De Kock nor any of his bowlers had an effective answer to Shanaka’s assault.

Each of his fours streaked to a different boundary and he put bowlers as contrasting as Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo and Junior Dala over the midwicket fence for six.

Not that De Kock should be judged too harshly. How does anyone answer something like that, particularly on a willing pitch and a fast outfield only a few metres bigger than the international minimum – both kept in prime condition, despite the rain, by vast squadrons of typically enthusiastic Lankan groundstaff.

Only Duminy, who took 2/35 from his six overs, got away with bleeding runs at fewer than one-a-ball.

Shanaka, who took guard in the 28th over, was finally extinguished in the last over of Sri Lanka’s innings.

The rest of the innings was uncertain, ungainly and unlovely, and it killed off De Kock’s stated ambition of winning the series 5-0.

Whether the visitors can make it 4-1 or the home side can save face with a 3-2 result will be decided in Colombo on Sunday.