Reeza Hendricks scored the fastest hundred by a debutant, off 88 balls, and became the third South African to register a century in his maiden ODI appearance as the visitors racked up their highest total in Sri Lanka. None of Sri Lanka’s bowlers were spared the South African onslaught as runs also came from Hashim Amla, who scored his second fifty on the tour, JP Duminy, who fell eight runs short of a fifth ODI century, and David Miller, who brought up his first fifty since the Champions Trophy last year.
The end result is that the hosts have to complete the highest successful chase on the island to stay in the series. Even though there are plenty of runs in the surface, 300-plus totals have only been hunted down twice in Sri Lanka, both times during the series against Zimbabwe last year.
For South Africa, the history won’t matter. What’s more important is the form of their batsmen, who have all now fired in the ODI series, and this time totally dominated Sri Lanka.
Amla started strongly and smacked eight boundaries in the first five-and-half overs and had his full range of strokes on display. There was the back-foot drive, the front-foot drive through the covers, and the pull as Sri Lanka’s new ball bowlers erred in length. But they were rewarded at the other end. Quinton de Kock only faced eight of the first 36 balls and only scored two runs when top-edged a Suranga Lakmal length ball to give backward point a high catch.
That brought new man Hendricks, who was picked ahead of Aiden Markram, to the middle and he showed early intent. Hendricks drove an overpitched Lakmal ball through point but it remained the Amla show in the early exchanges. Akila Dananjaya was the first spinner to be introduced in the 10th over and Amla danced down the track to hit him for six, then leaned back and cut him for four to bring up 50 off 39 balls.
South Africa raced to 64 in the first ten overs and Sri Lanka needed wickets to stem the flow. Hendricks’ innings almost ended when he jabbed at a Lakmal delivery with an open-faced bat but the edge fell short of Kusal Mendis at slip, and Mendis hurt his finger in the process. Mendis left the field for treatment but returned.
Lahiru Kumara and Thisara Perera gave away 25 runs in five overs to pull South Africa back and Thisara ended Amla’s innings to give Sri Lanka a peep into their opposition’s middle order. Amla was given out lbw when he missed a pull off a Perera offcutter but reviewed and ball-tracking showed the delivery was missing leg stump. Off the next ball, Amla missed the offcutter again and was bowled through the bat-pad gap.
With Amla gone, a newbie in Hendricks and a new batsmen at the crease, left-arm spin was brought on and, at first, Hendricks and Faf du Plessis were circumspect. But after a few balls getting his eye in, Hendricks slog swept Prabath Jayasruriya for six and the pressure was back on Sri Lanka. Hendricks almost inside-edged Thisara onto his stumps in the next over, but survived and brought up fifty off 49 balls. Du Plessis tried to join in the fun but holed out to deep midwicket.
Duminy’s account opened with an inside-edge between the wicket-keeper’s legs that went for four, Hendricks top-edged a second slog-sweep off Jayasuriya that also went for four, and nothing seemed to go Sri Lanka’s way. Duminy and Hendricks were both confident against the spinners and runs kept coming. Hendricks’ hundred came up with a tuck to long-leg and he looked set for many more but was bowled off the next ball from Kumara, which jagged back and took off the leg bail.
South Africa still had 15 overs left in the innings and with Duminy and Miller on hand, 350 was on the cards. Duminy’s fifty came off 52 balls and he only became more dangerous after that. He slog-swept Dananjaya for six and then four and took 23 runs off Lakmal’s ninth over but then gifted deep midwicket a catch to fall short of a century.
Miller had played a secondary role until then but found his own force and brought up fifty off 46 balls before also picking out deep midwicket in the penultimate over. Andile Phehlukwayo struck 24 runs in a cameo off 11 balls to put South Africa in the pound seats to push for a series win, and it will take something special from Sri Lanka to stop that.