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Comedy of errors

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Bad selection, poor execution cost Proteas in final ODI against clinical Sri Lankans

FLYING HIGH: Sri Lankas Akila Dananjaya jumps for joy as he celebrates with his teammates after taking the wicket of South Africas Heinrich Klaasen. Picture: Reuters

South Africa would rather this final One-Day International be expunged from the record books such was the calamitous nature of their play at the Premadasa Stadium yesterday. Starting with the team selection, which was then compounded by poor execution with the ball, and concluded with another dizzying collapse against spin, the Proteas re-lived so much about what had been bad about this tour to Sri Lanka.

The series was already won, so this loss won’t hurt as much, but it was such a bad display that it must be hoped it doesn’t linger too long with any of the players.

On a slow-paced surface the South African seam bowlers got the implementation of their plans badly wrong after Angelo Mathews chose to bat when winning the toss.

Employing a ‘bouncer’ strategy is one thing, but it really is a plan that is best utilised when the bouncer is used as a ‘set-up’ ball. The South Africans didn’t do that yesterday, and to make matters worse their bouncers were so poorly directed that it allowed the Sri Lankans enough room to free their arms, peppering the point area and the square leg and midwicket region with more than half the boundaries in their innings.

The Proteas’ ill-discipline was further illustrated by the concession of 25 extras including seven wides and three no-balls.

It was a bad bowling performance from everyone, with the exception of left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. He utilised the conditions effectively, mixing pace and spin while maintaining excellent lines and lengths in a 10-over spell in which he bowled just one bad ball – which was smashed for six – conceding 32 runs and picking up one wicket.

Mathews top scored for the hosts, with an unbeaten 97 (97b, 11x4s, 1×6) taking advantage of the gifts served up by the South Africans, while marshalling the innings through the pressure that Maharaj had briefly helped to create.

The next best score was Niroshan Dickwella’s 43 (65b, 5x4s), while Kusal Mendis (38) and Dhananjaya de Silva (30) weighed in with some useful contributions.

South Africa for their part found no momentum in pursuit of their target, losing Hashim Amla to a ball from Suranga Lakmal that hit the top of off-stump.

Amla should probably have been given a break from this match having played all the games on tour so far, but in the one change to the batting unit, the selectors chose to ‘rest’ David Miller to accommodate Aiden Markram, a bizarre call given that Miller is supposedly a limited overs specialist.

In addition if the argument that ‘they don’t have anything to prove,’ is applied to Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn who haven’t been picked for this series, then why can’t it apply to Amla, who is also a senior player?

Markram could have opened along with Quinton de Kock, to assess that combination, while retaining Miller’s explosiveness in the middle and giving him an extra opportunity to build confidence and form ahead of the upcoming South African season.

As it turned out no one had an answer for Akila Dananjaya’s bag of tricks; Markram who struck five brilliant boundaries against the pace of Lakmal, fell to the third ball he faced from the leg-spinner; Reeza Hendricks was beaten by a beautiful googly, as was Heinrich Klaasen and later Quinton de Kock too.

South Africa’s stand-in captain had stood out amidst the carnage making a fine 54 (57b, 7x4s, 1×6) but got no support from anyone else.

Dananjaya produced career-best figures of 6/29 in nine overs as South Africa crumbled in less than half their alloted overs.