There is no substitute for experience in international cricket and South Africa showed that as they claimed the T20 series lead in a shortened 10-over match at SuperSport Park. David Miller
and Farhaan Behardien shared in a fourth-wicket stand of 51 off 27 balls to help set a target of 127 before Imran Tahir took two wickets in his second over to put South Africa on course for victory, but not without Sri Lanka's most serious challenge of the tour so far.
The visitors got their chase off to a strong start through Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva. They put on 59 runs for the first wicket, inside six overs, before Tahir's double strike removed them both. Dickwella holed out to deep midwicket but de Silva was defiant and came down the wicket to hit Tahir for successive sixes before missing a slog sweep and seeing his middle stump removed.
In the next over, Aaron Phangiso, the only other member of South Africa's World T20 squad to feature in this match had debutant Thikshila de Silva caught at midwicket off a slog sweep and Sri Lanka's middle and lower-order had much to do.
Seekkuge Prasanna kept them in it with back-to-back to sixes off Phangiso but the damage was done. Sri Lanka needed 40 runs off the last three overs, which was not an impossible ask, but lost three wickets for three runs, two of them to debutant Lungi Ngidi
in the same over to spoil their chances of success. Prasanna was caught behind off a back-of-a-length ball and Mendis was caught in a relay catch between Heino Kuhn and Tahir on the deep square leg boundary to prove Ngidi's promise on a night the veterans shone.
South Africa sported five new caps, including Man of the Match Ngidi, in their XI and a new captain in Behardien, and made the most of being asked to bat first after afternoon showers delayed the start of play by more than two hours. They rewarded the sellout crowd, who waited in the wet, with an entertaining encounter despite the new batsmen's limited success in their desperation to impress.
Home favourite Heino Kuhn, who was making a return after five T20s in the 2009-10 season, made a promising start but was out lbw to Nuwan Kulasekara when he shuffled across his stumps and missed a flick. Jon-Jon Smuts, the domestic T20 competition's leading run-scorer, only lasted an over more before a top-edge ended his fun. Theunis de Bruyn, a non-playing member of the Test squad, looked the most confident of the trio - his shot arm jab for six off Suranga Lakmal was the highlight of his knock - but he found a diving Asela Gunaratne at point to leave it to Miller and Behardien to give South Africa a total to defend.
Miller had already smoked a six off a Prasanna googly in the over de Bruyn was dismissed and with South Africa scoring at a rate of over 11, Behardien and Miller could take an over to get their eye in. They treated Gunaratne with respect - he was the only Sri Lanka bowler to finish with an economy rate in single figures - before launching their late assault.
South Africa doubled their score in the last four overs as Behardien tucked into full tosses from Nuwan Pradeep and Miller took Angelo Mathews' second over for 19 runs. He brought out the slog sweep, the pull and a swat thorough the covers off Mathews, before unleashing an inside-out drive and one over midwicket off Kulasekara, whose second over also cost 19. Miller holed out to long-on when he was on 40 but Mangaliso Mosehle spanked his first ball in international cricket for six and Behardien batted through to ensure South Africa had enough.