It’s Miller time – Proteas’ los­ing streak is fi­nally over

But there are mo­ments of panic as Per­era smashes Peter­son

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA

IN THE jun­gle, the mighty jun­gle, the Proteas smile to­day.

It took nearly 20 years, and there was a brief scare when This­ara Per­era went berserk with the bat, but South Africa landed only their sec­ond ever vic­tory in Sri Lanka last night, tri­umph­ing by 56 runs at the Pallekele Sta­dium.

David Miller, grow­ing into his role as fin­isher, added re­spon­si­bil­ity to his bow, nav­i­gat­ing his way around the spin­ners, be­fore the fa­mil­iar blud­geons re­turned in a price­less 85 not out, which pro­pelled the tourists to 223 for seven.

Lon­wabo Tsot­sobe, one of three changes to the side, struck thrice in a cru­cial first spell, to re­turn ca­reer-best fig­ures of four for 22.

He even got over the com­i­cal drop­ping of the danger­ous Per­era, who mauled Robin Peter­son for 34 in one bru­tal over, snar­ing a sharp, match­win­ning catch from Ajan­tha Mendis to get South Africa back in the se­ries.

“I’m very proud. We were un­der a lot of pres­sure to win to­day,” AB de Vil­liers beamed.

“I re­ally thought we did well to get to 220, and David played re­ally well. We’ve al­ways thought he had the abil­ity to turn games for us, and it’s great to see that com­ing through now. We also han­dled the pres­sure sit­u­a­tions well, which was pleas­ing,” the skip­per added.

Miller – down to num­ber seven on a bat­ting card that also ac­co­mo­dated Quin­ton de Kock (in for Hashim Amla) and Farhaan Be­har­dien (for Chris Mor­ris) – started slowly, be­fore ex­plod­ing at the death, with five sixes and four fours, in a man-of-the-match show­ing.

“It means a lot to me,” Miller said of his ma­ture dis­play un­der the pres­sure of walk­ing in at 100 for five.

“It was re­ally en­joy­able bat­ting with AB, and I learnt a lot out there. I en­joyed the chal­lenge of play­ing the spin, and it went quite nicely to­day.”

Miller added 69 for the eighth wicket with Ryan McLaren ( 14 not out), and ad­mit­ted they had to be mind­ful of the bat­ting to come.

“We wanted to have a go from the 45th, but we also knew we couldn’t go too early, be­cause it was only Lopsy and Morne (Morkel) to come.”

Miller was cir­cum­spect against La­sith Malinga and the spin­ners, but ex­ploded into life against the luck­less Per­era, glean­ing five sixes off the seamer.

“It was quite nice to work hard for the runs, and then af­ter get­ting through that, to go hard at Per­era at the end,” Miller added with a grin.

224 still didn’t look like enough, and the Proteas needed to strike with the new ball. Morkel pro­vided the mon­grel, but it was Tsot­sobe who de­liv­ered the bite.

“Morne was very ag­gres­sive, and set the tone, and then Lopsy bowled re­ally well up­front,” De Vil­liers en­thused.

“We have a re­ally good sys­tem in the team when it comes to guys sit­ting out, and they ac­tu­ally work even harder than the guys in the team.”

De Vil­liers said he chucked Peter­son in at the deep end when he re­alised McLaren’s tight ham­string wouldn’t al­low him to bowl. Per­era pounced, smash­ing 6,6,6,6,4,6 from the 33rd over, to send a whiff of panic through the vis­i­tor’s change-room.

“That was my mis­take, but I knew that we were still in con­trol.”

De Vil­liers, frol­ick­ing in the out­field, with De Kock be­hind the stumps, said he had en­joyed hav­ing more time to talk to the bowlers and as­sess the match. He hinted that he may be quite con­tent with one less re­spon­si­bil­ity on his hands.

“It’s a tricky one, be­cause I do en­joy my­self in the field. I also found I had more time, and Quin­ton did a very good job. I will have to chat to Rus­sell (Domingo) about that one.”

De Vil­liers also paid trib­ute to as­sis­tant coach Adrian Bir­rell, for in­ject­ing life into the side’s field­ing.

McLaren’s ham­string was later con­firmed as “a mild strain”, but he is ex­pected to be fine for to­mor­row’s fourth ODI. Amla is also re­port­edly mak­ing good progress with his groin strain.

Af­ter two decades of pain, the Proteas fi­nally toasted vic­tory on this cricket-mad is­land.

They won’t be plan­ning on kick­ing the happy habit any time soon.

ERANGA JAYAWARDENA, AP

THAT’S A BIG ONE: South Africa’s Lon­wabo Tsot­sobe cel­e­brates the dis­missal of Sri Lanka’s Kumar San­gakkara dur­ing the third ODI in Pallekele last night. The Proteas won by 56 runs to keep the se­ries alive.

GALLO IM­AGES

MIGHTY SWIPE: David Miller on his way to 85 not out in Kandy.

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