REEZA HENDRICKS grabbed his opportunity to score a century on his ODI debut to set up the Standard Bank Proteas for a series-clinched 78-runs victory over Sri Lanka in the third contest of the five-match series at Pallekele on Sunday.
Hendricks was given the No. 3 slot in place of Aiden Markram in the only change to the Proteas starting line-up and became the third South African to score a century on debut in this format after Colin Ingram (against Zimbabwe) and Temba Bavuma (against Ireland) and the first to do so away from home.
His innings of 102 (89 balls, 8 fours and a six) was the 14th instance of a debut century in ODI cricket and the fastest with his strike rate of 114 improving on the previous best of 108 by the great West Indian, Desmond Haynes.
Hendricks was also named Man of the Match for his role in setting up South Africa’s highest ODI total in Sri Lanka of 363/7 and was also the highest total ever made at this venue.
Although Hendricks deservedly got the main plaudits there was also a key role from Hashim Amla who produced his best form of the tour in making a run-a-ball 59 (9 fours and a six) before the late innings plunder from JP Duminy (92 off 70 balls, 8 fours and a six) and David Miller (51 off 47 balls, 5 fours and a six).
Duminy has had a wonderful tour to date, bringing dynamic intent to the middle-order, both in terms of runs scored and the rate at which he has made them, and he also contributed four typically tidy overs of off-spin.
Andile Phehlukwayo also contributed an unbeaten 24 off 11 balls (3 fours and a six) as the Proteas smashed 114 runs in the last 10 overs.
Where the Proteas have shown major improvement has been in losing only 18 wickets in the three matches compared to the 28 lost by Sri Lanka. And this has happened when they have lost all three tosses.
The Proteas bowlers then maintained the stranglehold they have held over the Sri Lanka top order throughout the series, taking wickets at regular intervals and preventing the home side from compiling the big partnerships they needed to chase down the total.
Sri Lanka did keep pace with the run rate for the first 40 overs but by then they had lost 7 wickets which ruled out any possibility of their upping the ante in the final 10 overs in spite of their best partnership of 95 for the seventh wicket between Dhananjaya de Silva who made a career best 84 (66 balls, 8 fours and 3 sixes) and Akila Dananjaya and, when Phehlukwayo dismissed both of them, the game was up.
Phehlukwayo finished with 3 wickets while Lungi Ngidi claimed his second four-wicket haul (4/57 in 8.2 overs) in only his seventh ODI.
The Proteas play the fourth ODI at the same venue on Wednesday (day/night fixture) and captain Faf du Plessis indicated that opportunities would be provided for other members of the squad in the remainder of the series.
Du Plessis left the field after injuring his shoulder in attempting a difficult catch which gave Quinton de Kock his first experience of the on-field leadership.