By Champika Fernando in Cape Town
It was a complete performance.
After their bowlers had tied down the strong South African batting unit, that included a comeback by AB de Villiers, Sri Lankan batsmen produced probably their best performance on South African soil — chasing down the home team’s 169 by five wickets to seal a memorable series win.
Opener Niroshan Dickwella, who was named Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series after hitting 133 runs, stroked a blistering 68 off 51 to go with the 22 and 43 he had scored in Johannesburg and Centurion. He created a perfect platform for Seekkuge Prasanna who put the finishing touches with his destructive hitting. Prasanna made an unbeaten 37 off 16 balls to set up a crushing five-wicket win sealing the series, Sri Lanka’s first in any format in South Africa.
“It’s a great win,” Dickwella said. “Moreover, it came against one of the toughest oppositions on their home soil. We are really happy.”
Sri Lanka lost the Test series embarrassingly (0-3) and faced severe criticism back home with many refusing to give them a chance in the limited over series.
However, they answered the adversaries in style by clinching the series. They had lost the rain-hit opener by 19 runs but came back brilliantly in the second match to keep their chances alive going into Wednesday’s third and final encounter.
Despite skipper Angelo Mathews heading home due to injury, young charges under Dinesh Chandimal rallied together to pull off a victory that sent shock waves through the South African camp that had fielded a second-string team, showing little respect to the former World Champions.
“We should have wrapped it up 3-0,” Dickwella said. “In the other two matches (second and third T20Is) we were cool and calm, we held our nerve and we played well. That was the main reason we won the other two games. The first one was a ten-over match because of the rain but I think we could have won the series 3-0.”
He added that the win was a great morale booster ahead of the five-match ODI series which will start on January 28th in Port Elizabeth.
“Winning against a big team like South Africa is big,” continued the former Trinity College skipper. “The whole team is backing up our strengths now. We are going to play well in the one-day series as well.”
Dickwella also credited Seekkuge Prasanna for his fine innings that put the finishing touches on the tough chase.
“I think, more than me, it was Seekkuge who set it up for us. He was absolutely brilliant, taking us over the line,” he said.
Sri Lanka will now play five ODIs against a full-strength South African side, hoping to replicate their T20 performance in the longer format. Dickwella anticipates that the conditions will suit them well.
“The wickets are better. In the Test series, the wickets were quite greenish and the ball swung a lot. In the T20 series, they prepared better wickets for the batting team,” Dickwella said. “In this series, the three wickets were pretty much batting wickets so that’s why it’s easier for us now.”