Sri Lanka in SA

AB’s bullies blitz sorry Lanka

2012-01-11 22:14
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Paarl - Admittedly it took a switch of code to do it, but the modern Proteas side have proved at last here that they are able to string together consecutive muscular performances.

Scorecard at Paarl

Video highlights of the first ODI

A short transfer time of five days following the four-day triumph in the final Test, a 50-minute hop to this sweltering but picturesque country location ... and voila, South Africa again proved just too hot in execution of skills and intensity for Sri Lanka in the first one-day international at a full-house Boland Park.

This was even more of a mismatch than the afore-mentioned Test, and more than a little unexpectedly so considering the tourists’ known greater relish and - usually, anyway - aptitude at the 50-overs format.

Many recently-suffering Proteas fans, perplexed by the fickleness of their displays, will have been chuffed to note, despite the very different landscape, that six members of the team which won the Newlands Test were among the architects of the latest massacre.

Certainly there were some of us just a little fearful that, in a meeting of the ICC third-ranked Proteas with the team breathing right down their necks in fourth, the Lankans might find the legendarily slow and low venue right up their alley in the stifling conditions and potentially even get their noses in front.

Fat chance.

In a more perfect start for AB de Villiers’s captaincy tenure than he would even have dreamed of, including a particularly useful triumph at toss-time, South Africa got just about everything right to make it a grotesque rout for Tillakaratne Dilshan’s team.

There was a wobble at the start of their innings in the shape of increasingly under-pressure Graeme Smith getting out in single figures, and then again in the last five overs when the wily speedster Lasith Malinga, one of few big-name Sri Lankans to live up to his billing with a defiant, unyielding display, slightly braked the Proteas’ charge.

But the fact remained that in between, there was plenty of batting butchery as the host nation powered their way to a total in excess of the 300-mark at a place where such scores are well less than commonplace.

Adjusting quickly and admirably to the requirements of the pitch, century-maker Hashim Amla (he’s made nine in ODIs now, all in winning causes) and Jacques Kallis did the major donkeywork - though that word under-estimates the majesty of some of their strokeplay.

De Villiers himself, meanwhile, went out to confirm, with stirring success in a delightful cameo, that the burden of leadership is unlikely to impede his effectiveness or sense of adventure at the crease.

What really knocked the stuffing out of Sri Lanka was the violence of the South African bowling bombardment; their pace arsenal bent their backs on the supposed featherbed, perhaps rather surprising a complacent Sri Lankan top order which crumpled hopelessly.

The visitors flirted dangerously with the lowest completed ODI total - 35 by Zimbabwe, ironically against them in Harare in 2003/04 - before clawing their way a bit past it on the sorry night which ended as a dazzling dusk gently faded over Paarl Rock just after 20:30.

When you are 13 for six and already rattled by pumped-up, lofty customers Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, it must be less than reassuring to see a certain Dale Steyn swinging his arms and then exploding into action as well as the first change!

“The plan came together,” said a visibly elated De Villiers afterwards.

“I asked the boys to run in with the new ball and strike, and Morne and Lopsy and then Dale did exactly that - they made my job extremely easy today. Lots of credit must go to the bowlers, who ran in with force.

“The key on these kind of tracks is to really run in hard and hit the deck; then you’ll get out of it what you require ... a little bit of low bounce too, some that went a bit through the top, and even a bit of seam movement we didn’t expect.

“You saw Dale not clocking in below 144-145 (km/h); same with Morne, so lots of aggression coming there.”

He admitted sterner examinations would lie ahead for his captaincy.

“It wasn’t the kind of test I was hoping for because we played really well. I know the hardest part is still coming ... I wasn’t tested at all tonight. It was attack, attack by us right from the beginning to the end so that is the easiest way of leading a side.

“My test will come when we are under pressure, and I am prepared for that. I know this is not the time to get excited; I’ve played this game long enough to know that.”

De Villiers described Amla as a “rock” of the batting line-up, and it is certainly reflected in his burgeoning ODI statistics - he is now averaging 56.38 after 53 appearances in the 50-overs game and has a fine strike rate of just under 92 into the bargain.

It is possible that the national side will be deprived of his services a little later in the five-match series as he is expected to become a first-time father very soon, although the skipper said the camp was “playing (the situation) by ear”.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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