By Shehan Daniel at the R. Premadasa Stadium
Openers Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks scored unbeaten half-centuries as South Africa completed a humiliating series whitewash of Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday, a result that will only compound questions ahead of the hosts’ T20 World Cup campaign next month.
While Sri Lanka struggled to 120 for 8 in their 20 overs, de Kock and Hendricks chased the score down with 32 balls to spare for South Africa to record their first-ever 10-wicket win against the hosts.
The 3-0 result reflected the different trajectories both teams are on ahead of the showpiece tournament, with South Africa gaining momentum with their third successive T20I series win having beaten the West Indies and Ireland earlier this year, while Sri Lanka seem to be heading in the opposite direction, losing three of the four series they have played this year.
That singular series win came against a depleted Indian team, and if that was seen as a shot in the arm for this young group of players, what transpired against South Africa is virtually a slap in the face, and a harsh reality check with only harder challenges ahead for Sri Lanka if they qualify for the Super 12 stage at the T20 World Cup.
And given the standard of cricket Sri Lanka have played in the three T20Is that permutation would be hard to believe for even its most optimistic fan, the only consolation being that things could not possibly get any worse than this.
There was a sense of familiarity in Sri Lanka’s innings yesterday, mirroring their effort in Sunday’s second T20I – wickets lost at the top of the innings, a middle order collapse and a copious amount of dot balls given up due to an inability to find gaps or the boundary.
Sri Lanka were reduced to 28 for 3 after Avishka Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva and Bhanuka Rajapaksa were all dismissed in the powerplay overs, ending that six over phase on 47 for 3.
De Silva and Rajapaksa in particular were punished for their rashness – the former stumped for the second straight innings and Rajapaksa having his leg stump uprooted trying to play across the line to the pace of Kagiso Rabada.
Sri Lanka would go on to lose four more wickets before they could double their powerplay score, as the pressure from South Africa’s spinners in particular began to tell, with a lack of application shown among the batsmen.
Despite fielding six all-rounders, Sri Lanka scored just 46 runs and only one boundary in the ten overs that followed the powerplay, with big hitting Chamika Karunaratne only coming in at number nine.
Sri Lanka were able to manage just 58 runs off the final half of their innings, 24 of which came off the bat of Karunaratne, with a little over a third of the overs being made up of dot balls.