Cape Town - Angelo Mathews played a gallant and heroic innings to lead Sri Lanka to the first victory of their tour when they beat the Proteas by 3 wickets with two balls to spare in the second T20 International match at the Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
The series will now go to a decider at Newlands on Wednesday when the Proteas will be strengthened by the return of AB de Villiers.
Mathews finished unbeaten on 54 (54 balls, 1 four and 3 sixes). It was his fifth half-century in this format and took his career total past 1 000 runs.
But the statistics hardly told the story. The key aspect was that Mathews kept his head while most of those around him were losing theirs. And then in a dramatic finish he twisted his ankle in the penultimate over and stayed at the crease although he could barely run. He did manage to hobble a leg bye off the last ball of the 19th over and then hit two sixes to finish the job.
It was by far the lowest aggregate in a T20 match at this venue with the Proteas failing to assess the pitch properly – it spun prodigiously and always provided low bounce with one delivery bouncing no fewer than four times on its way to the keeper, something unheard of at this venue.
The Proteas total of 113 was a good 20 runs below par with Sri Lanka’s mystery wrist spinner, Lakshan Sandikan, taking 4/23 on debut and precipitating a middle-order collapse before Farhaan Behardien and Aaron Phangiso put on 33 for the 8th wicket, the second highest partnership of the match after the 51 by Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal for the 4th wicket.
The Proteas nevertheless put up a never-say-die performance, spearheaded by Lungi Ngidi who took 3 wickets in his opening spell of 3 overs and finished with 4/19. This was the second best performance at the Wanderers and the joint eighth best for South Africa.
He has now taken 6 wickets in 6 overs in this series for a strike rate of 6 and an average of little more than 5.
There were a few difficult chances put down that in the end made the difference between victory and defeat but nobody can begrudge man of the match, Mathews, this victory after what he has been through on the tour to date.
Whether he will be able to play on the remainder of the tour remains in considerable doubt.