They call Port Elizabeth the ‘Windy City’, and on Saturday (January 28) it was apparent why. Treetops shook, groundsmen were dragged around behind the covers and caps, training cones and boundary markers all disappeared at various points of the first One-Day International between South Africa and Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the tourists were also affected, as they found themselves blown away by a higher quality South African side.
After limping to 181 all out in 48.3 overs, Sri Lanka were equally powerless with the ball as South Africa romped to an eight-wicket win with more than 15 overs to spare. Such was the gulf between the two sides that it was already difficult to see how Sri Lanka might make a mark in the series. They may have gained hope from winning the Twenty20 series, but on Saturday the hosts brought back five players who were rested in the shortest format and the balance of power from the Test series was restored.
South Africa’s dominance was aided by AB de Villiers winning the toss on his return to the one-day team after a seven-month absence. Early morning rain had freshened up the conditions, but the pitch remained slow throughout the game and the main factor was the wind. A 72-run stand between Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal for the third wicket was the only time that Sri Lanka stood up to the challenge of sluggish conditions and some sound bowling.
With Wayne Parnell dismissing Niroshan Dickwella and debutant Sandun Weerakkody in his opening two overs, Mendis and Chandimal came together with the score on 14 for 2. The pair were content to see out three maidens in what remained of the opening 10 overs, but also took their chances when they came, with Mendis striking no fewer than seven boundaries. But as the field spread out, the wind continued to howl and occasional rain swept across the ground – never for long enough to take the players off the field – Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo managed to tie the batsmen down.
After 20 overs, they were 66 for 2 and in need of a boost, but Imran Tahir was beginning to work his magic. Mendis brought up his half-century in 74 deliveries, but in Tahir’s third over, the perfect googly proved too good for Chandimal (22), ripping through his forward push to clip the top of off-stump. Mendis (62) was undone by an equally good delivery soon after, playing down the wrong line of a legspinner to be trapped lbw. When Upul Tharanga threw himself into the trap set by South Africa, driving Tahir straight to short cover, Sri Lanka were 102 for 5 in the 30th over.
Another rebuild was required, but Dhananjaya de Silva and Asela Gunaratne could only add 24 for the sixth wicket before a mix-up saw the latter run out. There was to be no recovery from that moment, even if de Silva did his best to drag the innings out with the lower order. He made 28 before Parnell returned to grab a third scalp, while Chris Morris grabbed the final two wickets. Tahir was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 26 from his 10 overs, while Parnell finished with 3 for 48.
Faced with such a meagre target, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla made the result a formality with an opening stand of 71 in 13 overs. Although they started cautiously, scoring 43 in the opening powerplay, they soon opened up. After de Kock took two boundaries off Lakshan Sandakan’s first over, Amla hit a six and two fours in the next over from Jeffrey Vandersay. De Kock (34) fell to Sandakan in the next over when he drove hard to cover, but Amla went on to add 60 with Faf du Plessis.
The latter started his innings with a degree of uncertainty, especially against Sandakan, but once he came to terms with the pace of the pitch he returned to his smooth self. South Africa, meanwhile, were helped along by five penalty runs when Chandimal failed to take a Sandakan delivery and the ball hit the helmet behind the wicketkeeper.
By the time Gunaratne had Amla caught and bowled for 57, South Africa already had 131 on the board and the game was effectively up. It gave de Villiers another opportunity to ease back into international batting, and he accepted the invitation by scoring 30 not out at better than a run a ball as he and du Plessis finished the game off. Du Plessis finished unbeaten on 55, and Sri Lanka were left to wonder how they might stop the South African side bolstered by such high-quality reinforcements.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 181/10 in 48.3 (Kusal Mendis 62; Imran Tahir 3-26, Wayne Parnell 3-48) lost to South Africa 185/2 in 34.2 overs (Hashim Amla 57, Quinton de Kock 55) by eight wickets.