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Remarkable Reeza

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Hendricks strokes his way to classy ton in ODI debut

JUST REWARD: South Africas Reeza Hendricks celebrates his century during yesterdays third ODI against Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. Picture: Reuters

Sri Lanka vs South Africa

Third ODI

Pallekele International Cricket Stadium

South Africa 363/7

Sri Lanka 285

RESULT: SA won by 78 runs

Faf du Plessis described Reeza Hendricks’ performance yesterday as “remarkable” – not just for the runs he scored and the way he scored them, but the fact that the 29-year-old did so with the series still on the line.

Hendricks’ innings of 102 was a performance of the highest class packed with elegant stroke-play and even as he ended with a strike rate of 114.6, he did not look rushed. “It was just remarkable to see him play so freely,” said Du Plessis.

It was a special innings but one that the talented Hendricks has long been capable of playing. His form for the Highveld Lions across all formats last summer was very good and the resultant national call-ups; first for the T20 side against India and now for the ODI team indicates a player whose confidence is high.

“With the class we have in South Africa and the batsmen we have in the team, it’s quite difficult to break through. I was fortunate today that I got my opportunity and made some runs,” said Hendricks who became the third debutant – after Colin Ingram and Temba Bavuma – to score a century for the Proteas and the 14th overall.

Hendricks got his chance yesterday ahead of the out of form Aiden Markram, who has struggled all tour to find a solution for his problems against Sri Lanka’s spinners. Markram must have felt just a little envious that he didn’t get the opportunity to bat on arguably the best pitch the South Africans have played on all tour, one on which there was little purchase for the spinners particularly in the first half of the match.

Silky stroke-making

Hendricks, who has played 12 T20 Internationals, displayed characteristic style when playing through the off-side, producing an innings packed with silky stroke-making.

It was an innings that was perfectly timed, he never seemed to be forcing the pace, and if he couldn’t hit a boundary he was more than happy to chip or otherwise manoeuvre the ball into space.

Until the 89th delivery of his innings little troubled him, and he brought up the landmark with a pair of special back-to-back boundaries; the first a lovely punch off the back foot through the covers – a signature shot of his – followed by a deft flick through midwicket; and he celebrated by jumping and punching the air with Markram leading the applause from the South African dressing room.

Hendricks’ innings included eight fours and a six and provided the perfect platform from which JP Duminy and David Miller could launch in the last 15 overs.

Duminy’s form has been a boon for the Proteas, who would have been concerned about the inconsistency of one of their most experienced players. But utilising a more attacking mindset, he has played with greater freedom and looks like the player that captivated the world when he burst onto the international scene a decade ago.

South Africa smashed 146 runs in the last 15 overs, with Duminy scoring 92 (70b, 8x4s, 4x6s) – including a stunning assault against Suranga Lakmal in the 46th over when he hit consecutive fours followed by consecutive sixes.

There was a return to form for Miller as well, who scored 51 off 47 balls (5x4s, 1×6) as South Africa notched up the highest score at the Pallekele International Stadium, easily eclipsing the 327/6 Sri Lanka made against Zimbabwe seven years ago.

“The tone with which we are batting is fantastic. Even when we were losing wickets the guys stayed aggressive,” said Du Plessis.

Sri Lanka succumbed to the scoreboard pressure going hard at the start and losing four wickets inside the first 12 overs.

The South African bowlers found the going tough as well on the easy-paced surface, and Du Plessis was glad that they were put under some late pressure during a fine 95-run stand for the seventh wicket between Dhananjaya de Silva (84, 66b, 8x4s, 3x6s) and Akila Dananjaya who made 37.

“In the same way as we are aggressive with the bat, it’s also the case with the ball, we just keep taking wickets, which is also a way to stop the opposition scoring,” said South Africa’s captain.

Lungi Ngidi picked up four wickets and Andile Phehlukwayo three, to ensure the tourists wrapped up the series with two matches to spare.

Du Plessis, who injured his right shoulder diving for a catch during the Sri Lankan innings and left the field, said he’d have a look this morning before deciding how much more of the series he would play. It was the same shoulder that required surgery last year.

The fourth ODI will also be played in Kandy on Wednesday.