The final game of South Africa’s less than perfect tour of Sri Lanka took place on Tuesday 14th August as the teams battled it out in the only T20I.
South Africa were led by JP Duminy who won the toss, on what Kepler Wessels called a wicket that would help the spinners, Duminy did the correct thing and opted to bat first.
It was an inept batting performance. They lost wickets at regular intervals, Hashim Amla started things off when he just lobbed an easy catch to extra cover for a duck.
Reeza Hendricks was celebrating his 29th birthday, he played a nice little cameo of 19 off 16 balls, before the first of many ill-timed sweep shots cost a Protea batsman their wicket.
South African captain, Duminy’s innings didn’t last long, he tried a reverse-sweep and missed. He was gone on review for 3.
It was now up to David Miller, as the only front line batsman left in the batting line-up, together with Heinrich Klaassen to guide South Africa to a respectable total. Klaasen hit a couple of good cricket shots, used his feet well to the spinners and was looking good, before he sliced a ball straight to Mendis at point. He was gone for 18 and South Africa were in trouble at 69-5.
Andile Phehlukwayo was the next man to the crease, and he had to prove his worth as a big hitting all-rounder, he had to prove he has the mental strength to tough it out in situations like this. However, on only the third delivery he faced, he tried reverse sweeping a delivery and was out for a duck.
It was a remarkable over from Lakshan Sandakan who took three wickets for 4 runs. South Africa went from 69-4 at the start of the over, to 73-7 at the end of it, with KG Rabada the last of the three wickets for a duck.
The issue for me comes with David Miller’s dismissal, with his team in trouble, and with over 6 overs left, and knowing he was the only batsman left, he tried going big with a sweep shot, ah another sweep shot, and is caught for 14. South Africa were now 84-8.
What were the batsmen thinking? There was no thinking demonstrated from any of the batsmen, it was simply brainless batting.
South Africa were bowled out for 98, their lowest T20I score ever. This has been a tour of unwanted records being broken. The Proteas scored their lowest Test total since readmission (124 in the 1st innings of the 2nd Test), their lowest ODI total in and against Sri Lanka (121 in the final ODI) and now, they completed the trifecta with the lowest T20 total.
Typically, it was left to the bowlers to try and salvage some pride from this game. With such a low target, they knew they had to strike early and regularly. Kagiso Rabada gave everything he had. He took two wickets in his first over, one with a brilliant inswinging yorker that left Sri Lanka on 6-2. He was amazing, finishing on 2-24 in his 4 overs.
The bowlers did well, chipping away at the Sri Lankan batsmen, Dala and Shamsi picked up wickets in consecutive overs (de Silva for 31 and Mathews for a duck) to leave Sri Lanka on 63-4.
Dinesh Chandimal was joined by Dasun Shanaka, who played a bright little cameo of a run-a-ball 16. By the time Junior Dala took his wicket, which was also his second of the innings, Sri Lanka required 17 runs to win.
Tabraiz Shamsi didn’t give up the fight. He bowled a beautiful spell, taking 2-26 in his 4 overs and had Thisara Perera clean bowled with a beauty for a duck, Sri Lanka were 83-6, still needing 16.
JP Duminy brought himself on and struck with his first delivery, bowling Akila Dananjaya for 2. Chandimal was watching his batsmen at the other end give the game away, whilst he was there on 30*.
Sri Lanka had slipped to 88-7. Could South Africa really pull this off?
Sadly no, Isuru Udana hit the winnings runs with a boundary off Lungi Ngidi and Sri Lanka won by 3 wickets with 4 overs to spare. They were deserved winners and it was a sad end to a sad tour for the Proteas.
It was an embarrassing, lacklustre and unprofessional batting performance from South Africa. They had no answers for the spin.
Batting coach Dale Benkenstein was interviewed during South Africa’s innings, and seemed perfectly happy that the Proteas were in deep trouble, saying that he was happy they were playing positive shots – a quote from Benkenstein:
“would’ve been nice if they bowled the seamers for a while but at least we’re being positive”
Is this the correct mentality for a batting coach to have when his team are very obviously struggling? The feeling I got from watching this embarrassing batting performance, was that the batsmen were told to “just sweep” if in doubt. That was painfully obvious with the mode of dismissals.
Whilst ultimately the players are responsible for their own performances, if the coach is doing nothing to help and guide them, he is not the right man for the job.
South Africa now return home for a few weeks rest before they welcome neighbours, Zimbabwe for an ODI tour. I hope they will use these few weeks wisely and improve their game.
Dates for the Zimbabwe series:
1st ODI – 30th September – Kimberly
2nd ODI – 3rd October – Bloemfontein
3rd ODI – 6th October – Paarl
1st T20 – 9th October – East London
2nd T20 – 12th October – Potchefstroom
3rd T20 – 14th October – Benoni