Lankans square up in nailbiting finish

Angelo Mathews played a gallant and heroic innings to lead Sri Lanka to the first victory of their tour when they beat the Proteas by three wickets with two balls to spare in the second KFC T20 International match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium yesterday.

THRILLING ENTERTAINMENT: Imran Tahir of South Africa during the second KFC T20 International against Sri Lanka at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium yesterday. Proteas lost by three wickets Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The series will now go to a decider at PPC Newlands on Wednesday when the Proteas will be strengthened by the return of AB de Villiers.

Mathews finished unbeaten on 54 (54 balls, one four and three sixes). It was his fifth half-century in this format and took his career total past 1000 runs.

But the statistics hardly tell the story. The key aspect was that Mathews kept his head while most of those around him were losing theirs. And then, in a dramatic finish, he twisted his ankle in the penultimate over and stayed at the crease although he could barely run. He did manage to hobble a leg bye off the last ball of the 19th over and then hit two sixes to finish the job.

It was by far the lowest aggregate in a T20 match at this venue, with the Proteas failing to assess the pitch properly – it spun prodigiously and always provided low bounce with one delivery bouncing no fewer than four times on its way to the keeper, something unheard of at this venue.

The Proteas total of 113 was a good 20 runs below par with Sri Lanka’s mystery wrist spinner, Lakshan Sandikan, taking 4\23 on debut and precipitating a middle-order collapse before Farhaan Behardien and Aaron Phangiso put on 33 for the eighth wicket, the second highest partnership of the match after the 51 by Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal for the fourth wicket. The Proteas nevertheless put up a never-say-die performance, spearheaded by Lungi Ngidi who took three wickets in his opening spell of three overs and finished with 4\19. This was the second best performance at the Wanderers and the joint eighth best for South Africa.

He has now taken six wickets in six overs in this series for a strike rate of six and an average of little more than five.

There were a few difficult chances put down that in the end made the difference between victory and defeat but nobody can begrudge KFC Man of the Match Mathews this victory after what he has been through on the tour to date.

Whether he will be able to play on the remainder of the tour remains in considerable doubt.

SOUTH AFRICA: JT Smuts, HG Kuhn, TB de Bruyn, DA Miller, F Behardien (capt), M Mosehle (wk), WD Parnell, L Ngidi, AL Phehlukwayo, AM Phangiso, Imran Tahir

SRI LANKA: N Dickwella, DM de Silva, AD Mathews (capt), ST de Silva, S Prasanna, BKG Mendis, LD Chandimal (wk), DAS Gunaratne, KMDN Kulasekara, PADLR Sandakan, I Udana. — DDC