The Proteas again managed to avoid self-implosion better than the Sri Lankans as they won the second ODI in Dambulla by four wickets on Wednesday.
They take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
South Africa’s inexperienced members again made their respective marks but it’s undeniable that the quality of the cricket hasn’t been great to date.
Both sides’ batsmen succumbed to soft dismissals too easily, while the hosts fielding effort was below standard.
Nonetheless, the Proteas’ confidence will be high.
Tactics and rookies stand up to the test
The visitors’ ploy of keeping a majority of seamers in their bowling attack worked well as they – with the benefit of hindsight – read a slow but largely docile surface well.
It was a collective effort undoubtedly but a major positive was how the two rookie change bowlers, Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder, improved from the first match.
The duo were hammered for 64 runs in their combined six overs last weekend, pointing to a potential chink in the Proteas’ armour.
However, the strapping Phehlukwayo was a star, grabbing fine figures of 3/45, a haul that included the key wicket of opener Niroshan Dickwella, who made 69 off 78.
He also showed skill with his variety of deliveries, a brilliant so-called knuckle-ball landing him his third victim.
Supporting him was Lungi Ngidi, whose inconsistency on the day couldn’t mask the fact that he made key breakthroughs.
He struck twice in the second over to remove Upul Tharanga and Kusal Mendis with successive deliveries to put Sri Lanka on the back foot early.
Ngidi ended with 3/50.
Kagiso Rabada (1/48) was good at the death while Mulder (1/26) and spinner Tabraiz Shamsi (0/43) kept a tight leash.
Shamsi conceded 21 runs in his first two overs before coming back well.
Angelo Mathews was the mainstay of Sri Lanka’s effort with a measured, unbeaten 79.
Quinny’s back but the Faf curse continues
Quinton de Kock has had a strange tour.
During the Test series, South Africa’s wicketkeeper-batsman had the scoreboard ticking along at times against Sri Lanka’s without looking convincing.
He clearly didn’t trust his defence.
Yet the more easy-going nature of the ODI series has seen him flourish.
The attacking left-hander was outstanding in cracking 13 fours and a six in his 78-ball 87, using the sweep shot to particular good effect.
Him and Hashim Amla, however, were the beneficiaries of some poor host fielding.
Amla fluently struck 43 before he cracked a full toss to spinner Akila Dananjaya (3/60), while Faf du Plessis again looked in prime form before being dismissed in the same manner off the same bowler.
South Africa’s skipper was left ruing another missed opportunity with his 49 off 41.
He’s now made scores of 49, 48, 47 and this latest effort.
When will he break free?
Markram needs a break
Another innings and another failure for the embattled 23-year-old.
Markram has looked increasingly at sea against the spinners on this tour and his confidence has been dented to such an extent that he needs to be dropped.
Fooled by Dananjaya’s off-spinner last weekend, he misread a leg-break in this match when he danced down, missed and stood wide-legged like a crab, edging the ball in the process.
It was the dismissal of a man woefully out of form.