South Africa coach Mark Boucher rued his side’s collective batting failure in the decider of the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, in which they went down by 78 runs, on Tuesday, September 7. The two teams will now face off in a three-match T20I series beginning Friday, in Colombo.
South Africa, on the back of their convincing win in the second ODI, made a great start to the third, restricting Sri Lanka to 203/9 in the allotted 50 overs. The spinners led the way, with Keshav Maharaj, George Linde, Tabraiz Shamsi and Aiden Markram combining for returns of 8/142 from 40 overs between them.
The hosts, however, were let down on the batting front, with no batsman crossing 22 in their effort of 125 all-out in 30 overs, with 21-year-old debutant Maheesh Theekshana returning 4/37 from 10 overs. Mark Boucher, the coach, identified the top-order collapse as a major turning point.
"It was frustrating because everyone in our top order has had a good knock in the previous two games," Boucher said. "They've spent some time out in the middle; the guys are in good form. On a wicket that is tough, and is going to get tougher as the game goes on, to lose three wickets in the first five overs and four of your top six in the first 10, you're always going to be on the back foot.
“Although we kept up with the required run rate the whole time we just lost wickets. And they did bowl well - they bowled smartly. Their seamer (Dushmantha Chameera) bowled with good energy and bowled good areas, backed up by some good catching."
South Africa’s series loss has pushed them to the ninth position in the World Cup Super League points table, and that could make their journey to the 2023 World Cup tricky, with series against India, Australia and England to come.
Boucher looked back at the first of the three ODIs, in which the visitors failed to close out on their chase of 301, going down by 14 runs.
"If I look at the series as a whole, we were given an opportunity to win the series in the first game," Boucher said. “We were in control of that run chase and we slipped up in maybe a period of five overs. We were unfortunate to lose Temba when we did (the skipper had walked off the field after he was hit on the thumb by a throw from Avishka Fernando, and was subsequently ruled out of the series).
“In order to win a series in the subcontinent, you've got to cash in when that opportunity arises. That's the biggest regret, that we didn't finish off that first game."
The 44-year-old reserved high-praises for Keshav Maharaj, who took over the captaincy duties from Bavuma in the last two games. He also reflected that the visitors have got a great depth in their squad, with all-round spin-bowling options at their disposal.
"Kesh has got a very smart brain,” Boucher said. “With the way he has led the guys on the field, his bowing changes and his fielding positions, he demands a lot of respect on the field.”
"It's a change of mindset (on spin-bowling all-rounders). As South Africans, we are used to fast-bowlers, a lot of all-rounders but you've got to back that up with good spinning options and that is where we are quite strong at the moment.
"We've got a lot of depth in the spinning department and guys are really competing. Shammo [Tabraiz Shamsi] is No. 1 in T20s and Keshav has really come a long way and he is bowling at his best. The mindset has changed to try and be smarter in these conditions."
The two teams will now face off in a three-match T20I series in Colombo, beginning Friday, September 10.