South Africa 107 for 8 (van Niekerk 33, de Klerk 15*, Siriwardene 2-12) beat Sri Lanka 105 all out (Siriwardene 38, Luus 5-14) by two wickets
South Africa sealed the T20I series against Sri Lanka with a tight two-wicket win at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Sune Luus‘ 5 for 14 helped to bowl Sri Lanka out for 105 but South Africa stumbled through the latter stages of their own chase to find themselves 97 for 8. But the hosts held their nerve, with no. 6 Nadine de Klerk guiding the team home with an unbeaten 15.
Captain Dane van Niekerk had once again set South Africa off to a rapid start, cutting and driving two off-side boundaries in Udeshika Prabodhani’s opening over and collecting another brace through the leg side off Chamari Atapattu’s offspin two overs later. Van Niekerk then took the attack to Achini Kulasuriya, swiping a massive six down the ground and then clubbing two further boundaries over the leg side. But van Niekerk then played one shot too many, swiping underneath another big hit with Kulasuriya settling under the swirling chance to hold the catch herself.
Her dismissal offered Sri Lanka a window back into the game, and they clawed back to dismiss Marizanne Kapp, Tazmin Brits and Luus cheaply. Two leg-side boundaries from Lara Goodall kept South Africa ticking, but the run-rate started to mount and when Goodall sliced a leading edge to Imalka Mendis at point, Sri Lanka had another opening. Saarah Smith tried to break free with a mow into the leg side, but she could only get as far as Nilakshi de Silva at deep midwicket, and South Africa were six down with 23 still needed.
Smith’s dismissal put Sri Lanka ahead, but in a cauldron of pressure the visitors’ fielding let them down at crucial moments. In Oshadi Ranasinghe’s fourth over, the backward point and third man fielders both tumbled over a deft late cut from Faye Tunnicliffe to give away a boundary, and four balls later Tunnicliffe laced a drive through the hands of mid off to take the requirement down to 15 from the last two overs.
Her luck ran out in the next over, however, as she flicked a flighted delivery from Atapattu into the leg side and then took on Kulasuriya’s arm for a risky second. But the throw was sharp and accurate, and wicketkeeper Sanjeewani whipped the bails off with Tunnicliffe short of her ground. Sanjeewani was at it again in the same over when Shabnim Ismail lunged forward at a flighted offbreak, only to be beaten by flight and turn, the wicketkeeper breaking the stumps with Ismail’s back foot in front of the line to leave South Africa eight down.
The hosts needed eight from the final over bowled by Prabodhani, but no. 10 Masabata Klaas was on strike, with Nadine de Klerk stuck at the other end. Klaas played and missed at the first delivery, but Sanjeewani fumbled her take and de Klerk charged through for a bye. De Klerk crunched two through the covers and then turned the strike over with an edge that fell short of Sanjeewani. Klaas’ drive to long on put de Klerk back on strike, and with three needed from two balls.
Sri Lanka’s fielding then let the team down a third, and decisive, time. De Klerk cut hard to beat point, and the cover sweeper then dived over the ball to allow a boundary, giving South Africa an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
The Wanderers track used in the men’s ODI last week was a little drier than expected, and today the spinners on both sides once again found plenty of purchase. Luus made particularly good use of conditions to record her second T20I five-for.
Sri Lanka were well placed at 72 for 3 when Luus was brought into the attack, Siriwardene having hit van Niekerk and Tumi Sekhukhune out of the attack in a flurry of boundaries. Siriwardene cut Luus’ first ball past point, but in her next over she charged down the track at one that ragged away from her off the pitch to be stumped for 38. In the very same over, Mendis swiped a catch out to Klaas at deep midwicket, and all the hard work had been undone.
Luus then got to work on the lower order, with some sterling help from her fielders. Sekhukhune pulled off a superb diving catch in the outfield to get rid of Thimashini, and wicketkeeper Tunnicliffe then pulled off another swift stumping to dismiss de Silva for 4.
Kapp, who had struck twice at the top of the innings, then returned to castle Prabodhani to leave Sri Lanka nine down. But the final act of the innings went to Luus, who held on to a sharp return catch from Ranaweera to claim her fifth wicket and bowl Sri Lanka out for a total that was just inside South Africa’s reach.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town
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