South Africa barely raised a sweat as Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks struck fluent undefeated half-centuries to knock off a modest 121 for victory in just 14.4 overs to complete a rare 10-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the final T20 at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday.
When victory came with 32 balls to spare, courtesy of a record T20 partnership for any wicket for South Africa against Sri Lanka, the tourists had completed a 3-0 clean sweep over their thoroughly outmatched opponents after losing the ODI series 2-1.
That the Proteas faced only a modest victory target was largely due to a clinical performance from their bowlers allied to a dismal effort by the Sri Lankan batsmen who were only able to cobble together 120 for eight after they won the toss and chose to bat first on a pitch that looked better for batting (more pace and bounce) than the first two strips in the series.
De Kock and Hendricks were under little pressure as they began their task with aplomb, putting all the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword as they raced to their target.
De Kock, who was easily the most productive batsman on both sides in the series, struck seven fours in his 59 in 46 balls while Hendricks hit five fours and a six in his 56 in 42 balls.
Not surprisingly, De Kock won the man of the match and the man of the series awards.
Acting captain Keshav Maharaj, who has impressed onlookers with his leadership skills during the series, praised his players, saying that the win was the perfect buildup to the T20 World Cup in the UAE next month.
“We played very constructively, having two opportunities to chase down targets, and in the first match to set a total and defend it. The bowlers have done well and the batters have stood up to the plate which is very pleasing to see,” he said.
He added that South Africa had areas in which they could improve, particularly restricting runs during the opening powerplay.
“On the plus side, we are taking wickets. From a batting point of view, we need to continue to put together partnerships and someone must bat through, particularly in sub-continental conditions.”
TWO WICKETS EACH FOR FORTUIN AND RABADA
Earlier, the Sri Lankan batsmen appeared to lack confidence as they gifted a series of soft wickets to a South African attack that didn’t have to be more than efficient to make progress.
Only opener Kusal Perera, who held the top-order batting together to some extent with 39 in 33 balls, and Chamika Karunaratne, who struck two impressive sixes in his unbeaten 24 in 19 balls at the end of the innings, really caught the eye as the hesitant Sri Lankan batsmen were unable to cope with the Proteas’ attack.
It wasn’t only the spinners who shone this time, with paceman Kagiso Rabada picking up two of the first three wickets.
The first, the scalp of Avishka Fernando, was scooped back to the paceman with the umpires initially thinking it had been a bump ball.
The second came when he disturbed the equilibrium of Bhanaka Rajupaksa with a vicious bouncer before uprooting the left-hander’s leg stump.
Bjorn Fortuin, who once again opened the bowling, quickly claimed the wicket of Dhananjaya de Silva with a delivery that the nervous batsman played over the top of, leaving De Kock with a simple stumping.
Three wickets in the first powerplay is never a good start for a batting side, and Sri Lanka never recovered, losing wickets at regular intervals before Karunaratne’s late show of defiance.
The run-out of Lahiru Madushanka typified the Sri Lankan performance as the right-hander clipped a ball straight to Rassie van der Dussen at cover before haring down the pitch, utterly unaware that his partner was not interested in a run.
When he raised his head, the ensuing runout was almost embarrassingly easy.
For South Africa, Fortuin and Rabada claimed two wickets each while Markram, Maharaj and Wiaan Mulder each took one. Tabraiz Shamsi, looking for one scalp to reach 50 wickets in T20s, this time went wicketless in his four overs.
SRI LANKA: Kusal Perera (wk), Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Dasun Shanaka (capt), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Madushanka, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana
SOUTH AFRICA: Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klaasen, Dwaine Pretorius, Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj (capt), Kagiso Rabada, Bjorn Fortuin, Tabraiz Shamsi