Proteas stroll to 4-0 lead despite Udana show

JP Duminy of South Africa during the 4th Momentum ODI match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St Georges Park on March 13, 2019 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

JP Duminy of South Africa during the 4th Momentum ODI match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St Georges Park on March 13, 2019 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

Sri Lanka’s No 9 briefly disrupted the home side’s dominance, before normal service in this one-sided series resumed.

The Proteas comfortably strode to a 4-0 ODI series lead against Sri Lanka by winning the penultimate match by six wickets in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

Despite being safe in the knowledge that they can’t lose the five-game battle, the home side didn’t slack off significantly.

In fact, for about 95% of the time their intensity was commendable.

Set a target of 190 after a varied attack did its job well, Quinton de Kock once again set the Proteas on their way with a rock-solid 51 off 57 deliveries, playing with the utmost ease.

It was rather disappointing when he found mid-on when he flicked a ball outside off.

Captain Faf du Plessis suffered a similar fate when his serene 43 off 38 was cut short by a chip straight to mid-wicket, with spinner Dhananjaya de Silva being the beneficiary on both occasions.

The off-spinner was to finish with creditable figures of 3/40 after he dislodged Reeza Hendricks early.

The recalled Aiden Markram (29) also wasted a good platform when he was caught off a leading edge.

However, the returning JP Duminy lit up the final stages with a sprightly, unbeaten 31 off 21, which suggested he might be ready for a proper swansong at the World Cup.

The short period where South Africa did lose control came late in the Sri Lankan innings.

The Proteas continued a poor habit of conceding vital runs to tailenders the visitors rallied.

31-year-old Isuru Udana, batting for the first time in the 50-over format at international level, embarrassed the front line batsmen and Anrich Nortje in smashing a brilliant 78 off just 57 deliveries … coming in a No 9!

It reminded of the second ODI against Pakistan in Durban earlier this year, when Hasan Ali made 59 in guiding his team from 112/8 to 203.

Boasting a first-class average of 25, Udana illustrated his pedigree in hitting seven fours and four sixes.

25-year-old Nortje suffered in particular after it seemed he was going to be South Africa’s hero.

The Warriors quick thrived initially on his homeground, bowling a hostile spell to claim 3/19 in his first six overs.

With Sri Lanka reduced to 131/9, he was brought on again to mop things up.

But Udana thrillingly fought fire with fire, memorably smashing Nortje for three consecutive sixes, the third a vicious swing out of the ground in an over that cost 23 runs.

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis decided to persevere though it didn’t make much of a difference, Udana taking 15 off that over.

Nortje ended with 3/57 from eight overs, thoroughly roughed up after conceding 38 runs in 13 balls.

Udana dominated a record-breaking last-wicket stand of 58, with his partner, Kasun Rajitha, contributing no runs.

It all had gone so swimmingly up to that point, with a varied attack all taking at least a scalp each.

Andile Phehlukwayo (2/21) eventually dismissed Udana.

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