South Africa registered only their second win of the tournament after beating Sri Lanka by a convincing margin of nine wickets. After Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius made early inroads into Sri Lanka’s batting, du Plessis and Amla brought their A game to the fore and gunned down the modest total.
Dwaine Pretorius strengthens his case for the third seamer
Although the tournament is done and dusted for South Africa, they would still want to finish it off on a high, which will only help them rebuild from here on. One shouldn’t be surprised by their disastrous performance as it was always on the cards and with a lot of issues needing to be addressed. However, nothing can deny their mediocre all-round performance that played a key role behind them making an early exit at the World Cup.
Along with many other problems, South Africa’s bowling puzzle was one of the key reasons behind their downfall. They have struggled to find an effective bowler to render enough support to Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir. Though Lungi Ngidi has been impressive, his injury-prone career has denied the team fruitful results. Dale Steyn and Anrich Nortje suffered ill-timed injuries and South Africa didn’t have the bench strength to match their productivity.
Dwaine Pretorius featured in the opening game against England but a wicketless spell saw him being dropped for the next six games. With nothing to lose, South Africa roped in Pretorius for the dead rubber and the wily pacer grabbed it with both hands. He produced one of the best spells by a South African in this World Cup and ensured his side stayed in command against the unpredictable Sri Lankan side. He single-handedly ran through Sri Lanka’s top-order to bag three wickets for 25 in ten overs.
With South Africa in dire need of a revival, Pretorius’ run will only make his case stronger in the games to come. And this spell was just a glimpse of his abilities; he can certainly develop into South Africa’s third seamer.
Can Avishka Fernando develop into Sri Lanka’s reliable No. 3?
An innings of 29 may not be of any value in contemporary cricket but those who saw Avishka Fernando bat for those 29 deliveries will certainly be impressed by his watertight technique and elegant stroke-play. Though a small sample size, the signs are promising.
Eye test does play a crucial role in scouting talent in cricket and in two innings in this World Cup so far, Fernando has shown enough of it. His pleasing straight drive off Rabada was undoubtedly the best shot of the day. Everything about that stroke was just right, the balance, the body weight and the timing.
After Sri Lanka got off to a rocky start, Fernando immediately steadied the ship with his cameo and took the attack to the opposition. He wasn’t bogged down by a pumped South African attack and played his strokes fearlessly. With an explosive Kusal Perera at the other end, Fernando gave Sri Lanka’s innings a solid boost. But the budding talent got carried away and ended up playing one shot too many, which resulted in his dismissal.
Not just this, he even put up a solid fight against England, where he scored a brisk 49 to take the momentum away from England but again, there was no conversion. The rate at which he is striking is also impressive as he hardly seems to be bogged down by the bowlers and plays his natural game under any given circumstances. Sri Lanka certainly have a potent player in Fernando and his List A average of just over 47 is also a testament to it. If groomed properly, Fernando could cement his spot in the Sri Lankan line-up.
Faf du Plessis' late homecoming
It has been mentioned plenty a time before that either Quinton de Kock or Faf du Plessis need to go berserk for South Africa to win. And the result is there for everyone to see. Their batting is heavily reliant on these two and the run-chase against Sri Lanka was a testament to it. Though the target was anything but daunting, the total still had to be chased and if South Africa’s recent form was to be taken into consideration then Sri Lanka was pretty much alive in the game.
Sri Lanka defended 224 against the star-studded batting of England and could not have been written off in this game as well. Faf du Plessis, on the other hand, got decent starts in the tournament but never really converted those into big ones. This was a golden opportunity to register an emphatic win and the skipper didn’t disappoint.
The Proteas skipper recorded his highest score of the tournament and ensured South Africa gunned down the target with ease. His unbeaten 96 was a combination of brute force and finesse - something that South Africa needed at the start of the innings. Before this game, his highest score was a 63 that came against Pakistan but his side still ended up on the losing side. It would be unjust to blame him for South Africa’s poor show in the tournament but his side would certainly have been in a better position had du Plessis fired from the outset in the way he did today.
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