Francois “Faf” du Plessis made the top score and pulled off a spectacular run out as South Africa clinched a series victory in the third one-day international (ODI) against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka at Chevrolet Park on Tuesday.
Mainly because of du Plessis making 72 off 74 balls, South Africa were four ahead of the Duckworth/Lewis par score when rain stopped play.
The home side were on 179 for five after 34 overs, in reply to Sri Lanka’s 266 for nine. The result gave South Africa a winning 3-0 lead in the five-match series and extended the tourists’ poor run to six successive ODI defeats.
Run-outs played a crucial role in both innings.
Sri Lanka made a competitive total, but it might have been considerably higher if their two star batsmen, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, had not been run out, both by direct hits.
Upul Tharanga (58) and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan (33) put on 94 for Sri Lanka’s first wicket.
Sangakkara, batting at No. 3, looked set to take full advantage of the good start on an easy-paced pitch as he stroked his way to 38 off 37 balls.
However, Sangakkara fell to a superb piece of fielding by du Plessis, who dived far to his left at backward-point to stop a cut by Dinesh Chandimal, then hit the stumps at the batsman’s end, with Sangakkara stranded after the batsmen hesitated.
Jayawardene was run out for 15, four balls into the batting power play in the 36th over, when he was sent back by Chandimal, slipped as he turned and could not recover to beat an accurate throw from Colin Ingram at mid-off.
“Mahela’s and Sanga’s run outs cost us 20 runs,” said Dilshan, who added that some sloppy fielding by his team had cost another 20 runs when South Africa batted.
Lasith Malinga made two early strikes in the South Africa innings, bowling Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram, and South Africa slumped to 52 for three when Alviro Petersen missed a reverse sweep and was LBW to Dilshan.
Du Plessis and J.P. Duminy put on 61 in a fourth-wicket stand marked by aggressive running between the wickets, before Duminy fell to a direct hit by Nuwan Kulasekera from mid-off.
Du Plessis went to a career-best score before he became another run-out victim, with Angelo Mathews making a quick pick-up and throw from cover.
Rain started to fall in the 33rd over, at the end of which South Africa were one behind according to the Duckworth/Lewis method.
Dilshan brought Malinga back into the attack, but the unorthodox fast bowler conceded eight runs to South African captain A.B. de Villiers and Albie Morkel before the rain intensified and play was halted.
On a pitch which offered no assistance to the bowlers, Tharanga and du Plessis were the only batsmen to achieve half-centuries.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government has ordered a probe into the national team’s “crisis situation,” an official said yesterday.
Sri Lankan Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage asked the country’s cricket governing body to investigate and recommend remedial action to end the side’s recent poor performances, his spokesman Harsha Abeykoon said.
“Carefully investigate the current crisis situation in the national cricket team and report back to me within a week,” Aluthgamage told the chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket.
The probe was ordered a week after another minister slammed the side, blaming lack of team spirit for a 258-run thrashing by South Africa, the side’s worst ODI defeat.