'Feels nice for us to put pressure on them' - du Plessis
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said the plans his attack had drawn up for Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Thisara Perera, whom they had identified as key batsmen, were vital to South Africa's 12-run victory in the first Twenty20.
Sangakkara has been in the limited-overs form of his life in the past two months, and though South Africa were unable to dislodge him, they succeeded in keeping his strike rate in check for much of the innings, as they took wickets at the other end. He had been dropped on 12, but was unable to exact as heavy a toll as he had during the ODIs.
"For us, Sanga is the big man. He's the big wicket. If we can get him, we can get some pressure into their changing room," du Plessis said. "I thought when JP dropped him, we might have lost our chance, but luckily we got other opportunities. We had a plan to him as well and we pulled it off."
"When Kumar was there was always a chance for them - he has been finishing games for Sri Lanka for years. Sometime in the middle they got into a good rhythm. But I knew if we go one wicket the pressure would be back on, and that's what happened."
Thisara Perera has also been in fine touch during the ODI series, a highlight of which was his 34-run plunder of a Robin Peterson over. He was unable to make a run in this match, however, miscuing a slog to extra cover off the third ball he faced.
South Africa had ensured Perera walked into a difficult match situation, after striking early in the Sri Lanka innings to remove Dilshan, who had hit a hundred and a 99 in his last two innings but made only a stalling 9 off 19 balls here.
"I thought the first six overs were going to be the key," du Plessis said. "If we could get six wickets in those first six overs and not go for too many, we were in the game. That's exactly what happened. We got Dilshan early, which was a big wicket. And then, for me, the other big one later on was Perera. He's a dangerous batsman as well. But we had really good plans and they paid off pretty well."
Du Plessis said South Africa were perhaps 20 runs short in their innings, having made 115 for 6, but had secured vital traction through JP Duminy's 51, which then paid dividends in the field.
"We finished on a high, with JP's batting there towards the end, and we also knew the pitch does tend to get a bit slow here in the second innings. We were still short, and we knew it would need quite a great bowling performance and some huge character, and that's exactly what we got.
"It's just nice for us to put some pressure on them for the first time in the tour. The whole one-day series we were taking it and they are very good at that: they put pressure on you and don't let it go. We got it tonight, and it was crucial for us that we kept that pressure on them. Our bowlers kept their composure and executed their plans."
Duminy took three wickets for 18 runs in addition to his half-century, and was part of a South Africa spin-bowling performance which, for the first time in the tour, was in the same league as what the Sri Lanka spin bowlers had produced. Imran Tahir was also effective on Twenty20 debut, taking one wicket for 22 from his four overs.
"It's great to contribute with bat and ball, with me bowling more often now," Duminy said. "I'm enjoying that new role. I had a bit of luck with their batsmen finding the fielders today.
"The win is a big morale-booster for us. We might have to pop the champagne tonight. We've been dead and buried for most of the one-day series, and it's great to start of the T20 series with the character we showed in the bowling performance. Hopefully we can take that momentum into the next two games"
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here