A change in formats did it – South Africa won their first match on what has been a tough tour of Sri Lanka, easing to a five-wicket win in the first one-day international.
There were many protagonists for the visitors in the victory in Dambulla. Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi set things up, their four-wicket hauls helping bundle Sri Lanka for 193 in just 34.3 overs.
Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock then put on an 86-run stand to arrest a slide, each scoring 47, before JP Duminy scored a 32-ball 53* to help see the chase through.
All considered, Sri Lanka had their moments, but South Africa were never really threatened.
They started the chase poorly, with Hashim Amla (11) dismissed within the first five overs, failing to pick a googly from Akila Dananjaya. The off-spinner didn't allow the new man, Aiden Markram, to add to the total, trapping him in front for nought.
But unlike Sri Lanka earlier in the day, the visitors didn’t let the slide turn into a full-blown implosion. Du Plessis and de Kock came together and resisted, initially, before getting the scoreboard moving. They put on an 86-run stand, and it increasingly seemed they would see the chase to its conclusion.
However, the stand was broken when de Kock (47 off 59) looked to go big off Suranga Lakmal, but managed just a top-edge that was taken at extra cover. Du Plessis (47 off 56) followed suit just three overs later, caught in two minds, attempting to paddle and then lift inside-out a delivery from Lakshan Sandakan. He ended up edging it to first slip.
Thankfully for South Africa, Duminy was in sublime touch. He came in, never allowed the pressure of the situation to get to him, and executed the sweep to near perfection, which helped contain the Sri Lankan spinners.
Duminy was unperturbed when David Miller (10) was sent back at the other end, and he soon brought up his half-century with an expertly carved four through point. That won the match for South Africa.
Earlier, Rabada ensured the tourists had that all-important good start, sending back Niroshan Dickwella (2) in the third ball of the innings. In his next over, he had Kusal Mendis (3) caught behind as well.
FOUR and that's 50 up for @jpduminy21! Take a bow, jou lekker ding! 53* off 32 balls (6x4s and 2x6s), the boundary was also South Africa's winning runs! Congratulations team on the 5-wicket victory. They go 1-0 up in the 5-match series. #ProteaFire #SLvSA pic.twitter.com/gnnh4b6qOG— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) July 29, 2018
It got worse for the hosts. Upul Tharanga (10) was run out, Angelo Mathews (5), the captain, lasted just eight balls, and Shehan Jayasuriya was sent back for nought. Sri Lanka were reduced to 36/5, and it seemed the tables had well and truly turned after the Tests.
Luckily for Sri Lanka, the two Pereras, Kusal and Thisara, put on a 92-run stand that propped them up, and gave the hosts something to bowl at.
Thisara was the aggressor, scoring a 30-ball 49, and for a while there South Africa were made to chase leather across the Dambulla International Stadium, with the left-hand batsman hammering eight fours.
However, Shamsi eventually broke through with one that turned very little. The edge was drawn from Thisara when he was one short of his half-century, and Sri Lanka’s most promising stand was ended.
Kusal carried on, though, putting on 38 with Dananjaya (11) before attempting a reverse sweep that Miller did well to claim at point. The rest of the batsmen managed to add just 14 runs as Sri Lanka were bundled out in 34.3 overs.
It proved far from sufficient.