Sri Lanka v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Pallekele July 26, 2013

Miller, Tsotsobe keep series alive

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South Africa 223 for 7 (Miller 85*, Mendis 3-35) beat Sri Lanka 167 (Thisara 65, Tsotsobe 4-22) by 56 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

What a difference two overs can make. That was all it took for South Africa to stay alive in the series, have their confidence restored and beat Sri Lanka at home for the first time in close to 20 years.

The 49th and 50th over of their innings produced 38 runs and took their total from middling to challenging. David Miller scored 35 of them himself - prior to this match no South African batsman had managed a score greater than 29 in the series - hitting Thisara Perera and Lasith Malinga straight down the ground. He proved South Africa could be competitive and could come back after being under pressure in the first two matches, and even large sections of the third.

And what a difference an over can almost make. Perera hit Robin Peterson for the second-most expensive over in ODI cricket to throw Sri Lanka back into contention after they slumped to 93 for 7. The 35 runs included five sixes and a four, Perera displaying his prowess, especially over the leg-side.

Like Miller, he showed the temperament required to succeed in conditions where the surfaces are sluggish - survive first, thrive later. Unlike the South African, Perera was asked to do too much at the end.

Because Miller did not have a target to chase, he had less pressure on him. His strike rate hovered between 70 and 80 for most of his stay at the crease as he settled in. He needed AB de Villiers to usher him through the period where even singles were hard to come by and soon realised patience would pay off.

Only at the very end, when Perera and Malinga seemed to have dinner rather than death bowling on their minds, did Miller pounce on anything too full and one which was too short. Miller registered the first South African half-century on the tour after their top order failed - Hashim Amla's absence is growing glaring as each match goes by.

South Africa tried a third opening pair in as many matches with Lions' team-mates Alviro Petersen and Quinton de Kock fronting up first. Both were watchful but de Kock was unable to contain his attacking instincts and was vulnerable outside the offstump.

He offered a chance in the fourth over when he swung at a wide one without any foot movement but Tillakaratne Dilshan at slip could not hold on. Sri Lanka hit back two balls later when Malinga bowled his first short ball and Petersen tried to hook too early, only to glove it to Kumar Sangakkara.

Sri Lanka's attack continued to find the edge of de Kock's bat and the youngster fell on his sword to open South Africa's middle up to a familiar state of panic. Both JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis posted insubstantial scores, with Duminy looking good again but unable to kick on and du Plessis uneasy at the crease and almost run out twice before actually being found short of his ground.

De Villiers looked closer to breaking the lean run but Sri Lanka's spinners and Ajanthan Mendis in particular did not let him get away. Mendis was difficult to pick while Rangana Herath and Dilshan kept things tight. It was only when Miller decided to hit out that the complexion of South Africa's tour became a little rosier.

Things got better for them from there as the fit-again Lonwabo Tsotsobe did the bulk of the damage upfront. He plucked three wickets in a six-over spell in which he extracted bounce, produced seam movement and partnered Morne Morkel to perfection.

Morkel created pressure at his end with pace and steep lift, while Tsotsobe's accuracy ensured eight dot balls were produced before the first run was scored. Sri Lanka's were troubled by anything back of a length and Dilshan was the first to succumb. He spooned a catch to de Villiers at cover before Kumar Sangakkara went in the same over, chasing one that moved away.

Upul Tharanga was also undone by bounce and edged Tsotsobe to Petersen at slip. With Sri Lanka at 16 for 3, South Africa were in control for the first time in the series.

They held the match in their grip even as Mahela Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal combined for a 55-run stand. Robin Peterson reviewed an lbw shout against Jayawardene, which was going down leg and Jayawardene survived a stumping chance when Peterson was bowling but the left-arm spinner had the last laugh. Peterson bowled Jayawardene with one that skidded on, but that was the end of his involvement in the night.

Peterson's figures were ruined by Perera, who hit his first four sixes over the mid-wicket boundary. Then, he sent Peterson back over his head for four and he finished with the biggest hit of the night, over square leg.

That over brought Sri Lanka's required run-rate below six but, it would take more than one over to change the course of the match. Perera had a few more meaty hits, but he didn't have a second over to match his first and when he was dismissed, Sri Lanka's hopes went with him.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SurlyCynic on July 27, 2013, 16:58 GMT

    ZCF_Outkast: I was really upset when Ngam had to retire, I think he and Brett Shultz had the most wasted bowling potential due to injuries we've had. I guess you must be joking when you imply he was 'faking' the injury? If not, why all the conspiracy theories?

    Tsotsobe has a long-standing ankle bone impingement, which meant he hadn't been able to train. He will have to have an operation soon to sort it out (Flintoff had the same problem), wonder what you'll say when he goes for an operation! Will it be Ali Bacher's fault?

  • ZCFOutkast on July 27, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    @Surlyman, Tsotsobe was not injured! He was left out for other 'obvious' reasons. AB probably woke up one July morning and decided Morris was better than our best ODI seamer. During the post match interview AB wasn't convincing at all stating he was left out to gain 'form&fitness', nothing about him being injured. I seem to recall both Morne&Steyn(CT) having swift returns despite serious concerns about their fitness recently. It's pretty clear different measuring sticks apply to different players.

    I've always wondered if Ngam&Zondeki were really that badly injured! Perhaps the likes of Marchant&Parnell have access to special diets in this world dominated by conventional foods, as opposed to the highly sought after organic stuff the former were exposed to in rural E.C. Somehow those dietary shortcomings did the opposite for Ntini, and perhaps the possibility of two other Ntinis was to hard to take. You can't put such things past the likes of Basson...

  • SurlyCynic on July 27, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    ZCF_Outkast : I'm a big fan of Gqamane, but to mention Bavuma in the same breath as players like AB and Kallis is a bit far-fetched!

    Your comments always seem to support certain players, for obvious reasons, which is a bit disappointing. Why not get behind everyone representing the country? As for why Tsotsobe didn't play before - he was injured!

  • ZCFOutkast on July 27, 2013, 15:32 GMT

    @vsssarma, it seems to me that your DMAC system works in reverse because out of the top ranking players that are listed, it doesn't show that Duminy would be the let down that he continues to be and it didn't conceal that RobbieP would get tonked putting a rare win under threat. Albie would be more useful than McLaren who they should not have wasted time&money calling back from England while we already had numerous loyal&deserving players knocking on the door!

    Australian batting rejects are busy giving Merchant a hiding down here, but you're more than welcome to DMAC him into your fantasy Proteas side. I on the other hand will hold out for the appearance of currently restrained gems in the mould of Bavuma&Gqamane. They among others, are not tainted by the choke syndrome programmed into the dna of the present batch of serial underachievers, and will go on to achieve the kind of glory that eludes the likes of Kallis, Steyn & AB, but has been tasted by less renowned cricketers before!

  • yohandf on July 27, 2013, 14:22 GMT

    To all who claim SA could won from where it stopped for rain . Guys it is not Pallekele where the ball bounces and come to bat . it is Premadasa with lot of turn and ball keeping low . So it would have been very tough for Miller to get 72 of 48 in that match . When drizzle started , Miller was given D/L par score sheet . Even then he could hit one boundary in next 2 overs and could come nowhere near par score . tht tells the situation . dont compare tht with this match.

  • vsssarma on July 27, 2013, 13:31 GMT

    ZCF_Outkast: How can you say that AMP will be the spearhead of SAF's future bowling ? We can not predict future but his past has not been good at all.

    Let us see how each of the SAF players performed as a ODI player (bowling+batting+fielding) in the last 2 years, as per the DMAC system that I maintain.

    Kallis 61.4 Botha 52.6 de Villiers 52.2 Abbott 49.5 de Lange 49.4 Amla 46.3 RJ Peterson 42.6 Duminy 42.5 McLaren 42.1 Miller 39.7 Kleinveldt 38.8 Elgar 38.7 Parnell 38 Morne Morkel 37.5 Steyn 36.9 Tsotsobe 34.8 du Plessis 32.2 Behardien 31.5 JA Morkel 29.8 GC Smith 26 Ingram 25.2 Morris 21.2 de Kock 20.1 AN Peterson 19 Phangiso 18.8 Ontong 15.4 Philander 13.9 Boucher 13.5.

    SAF's inability to play their best players is responsible for their downfall.

  • thecricketdiary on July 27, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    It's the last 2 overs of SA's innings that gave them a psychological advantage, 38 runs. South Africa should have got at most 200, 15 runs off the last 2 overs. But Miller deserves credit, for dealing with Malinga like that and reviving SA's innings. SL always have the tendency to panic when faced in these situations, just a win away from a series win. Poor shots from Dilshan, Tharanga, Sanga, Mahela, Mathews, oh wait the list goes on and on. I think that pretty much explains it, but it doesn't do justice to SA's bowlers who applied the pressure starting with the first ball. I think SA will tie the series 2-2, they just look a better team overall looking at the way they played this match. Plus, Amla should be back. SL will have to step it up next match, especially with the shot selection.

  • dummy4fb on July 27, 2013, 11:31 GMT

    those who SL rely on mahela cannot be people follow SL cricket that well..at least in ODIs when did he win a match for us ? Chandimal looked more secure against peterson and morkel and he def should bat at no 4..

  • vinodkd99 on July 27, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    @Appu Das. Really crazy comment from your side. On one side you are saying that Lankans should have send Thisara at 15/3 (So called Tactical move) and on other side you are saying that Lankans should not play rash strokes in next match. May I know what sort of Inconsistent thinking is that. Does Thisara play as per book?

  • dariuscorny on July 27, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    SA can win easily against a very average side of SL,just look at SL other than Sanga,Mahela they dont hv a player of substance who can take on any intl side.....a cakewalk for SA predicted now on............