It’s Miller time – Proteas’ losing streak is finally over
But there are moments of panic as Perera smashes Peterson
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.
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.
MIGHTY SWIPE: David Miller on his way to 85 not out in Kandy.