Cape Town - A maiden career century by Dané van Niekerk laid the foundation for the Proteas Women to make a strong start to their three-match One-Day International Series against Sri Lanka with a narrow seven-run win in Potchefstroom on Monday.
The South Africa captain struck 102 off 117 balls (5 fours, 1 six) at Senwes Park as the hosts posted 225 for seven after losing the toss and being put in to bat.
There was also an impressive 75 (100 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) from Andrie Steyn, before Van Niekerk nabbed two critical wickets to help restrict the tourists to 218/9 in 48 overs - two overs being lost at the start for both sides due to rain.
The pick of the bowlers was Masabata Klaas after she collected 3/46, with two wickets also coming via the medium pace of Tumi Sekhukhune (2/33).
But it was undoubtedly the skipper’s day in the North West as she proved the big difference between the two sides.
The South Africans lost early wickets after Udeshika Prabodhani (2/39) landed an early double blow by dismissing Laura Wolvaardt (0) and Lara Goodall (12). Van Niekerk and Steyn rebuilt brilliantly however with a 117-run third wicket stand.
After the former was removed by Inoka Ranaweera (1/31), the latter continued to build for her side. She was eventually dismissed shortly after getting to three figures - ending an innings that beat her previous best score of 95 made against England in Canterbury last year.
Van Niekerk then produced the most economical figures by going for just over 2.5 runs to the over to put the squeeze on the islanders, who made a good game of it.
They progressed well throughout thanks to Prasadani Weerakkody’s 47, a top score of 49 from Shashikala Siriwardene and an unbeaten 39 by Nilakshi de Silva.
However, they ended just short as the hosts took a 1-0 lead in the series.
The second match takes place at the same venue on Thursday.
South Africa ODI series squad:
Dané van Niekerk (captain, Eastern Province), Laura Wolvaardt (Western Province), Mignon du Preez (Northerns), Lara Goodall (Western Province), Shabnim Ismail (Gauteng), Marizanne Kapp (Eastern Province), Saarah Smith (Western Province), Tumi Sekhukhune (North West), Z Mali (Border), Suné Luus (Northerns), Nadine de Klerk (Northerns), Faye Tunnicliffe (wicket-keeper, Boland), Masabata Klaas (North West), Andrie Steyn (Western Province).