South Africa began their ODI campaign with a resounding win, lifting spirits in the touring camp with what was a particularly impressive bowling display and an all-round superior performance over the hosts.
Kagiso Rabida took 4/41, and spinner Tabraiz Shamsi notched excellent figures of 4/33, as South Africa skittled their opponents for just 193 inside 35 overs.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis was delighted after their first victorious outing of the tour, hailing his bowlers' successful execution of plans on a windy day in Hambantota.
"It feels much better to be chatting as a winning captain. We spoke of the chasing record. In day games, the first 15 overs, the seamers will always have an opportunity to take wickets. We thought the surface will stay the same the whole day. The breeze was a big challenge, but past experience of playing in Hambantota helped. I thought the guys had decent plans with the wind," he remarked after the game.
South Africa lost five wickets in their reply, but despite a few minor scares were never in any real danger of throwing away their strong position in the match. Du Plessis acknowledged the impact of changes in personnel from the Test side, citing the influence of returning players such as JP Duminy, who smashed an unbeaten 53 from 32 as the tourists chased down the total in just 31 overs.
"In the Test series we didn't play well, it's a new group of players for the ODIs. I also thought we've learnt lessons, had good discussions and were putting pressure on their spinners by taking a few risks. Someone like JP and all the batsmen, did very well. We've lots of cricket left and we're looking forward to it," said du Plessis.
Tabraiz Shamsi picked up the Player of the Match award for his four-for which included the two vital wickets of Kusal Perera (81) and Thisara Perera (49), but the spinner, brought in to the side for the ODIs, was quick to point out the exploits of the quicks that did the damage before him.
"The fast bowlers were exceptional, their hard work made my job easier. The wind was a major factor, you had to see which angles and lines to bowl. It's been good bowling here, this pitch didn't spin much though, but whatever the surface, you have to go out and do the job."
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Matthews praised the partnership of 92 shared by the two Pereras, but lamented his side's struggles against the new ball which saw them slide to 36/5 after an early onslaught from Rabada.
"I'm disappointed, it wasn't the best day but we have four more games to bounce back. The way Kusal and Thisara fought back was great. 250-plus would've helped us give a good fight, they bowled and batted well. They've always had a very good bowling line-up, and have been a threat wherever they've played. We need to bat better with the new ball. Bowling us out in 34 overs was disappointing, we may have got to 230-240 had we batted through," he said.
Quinton de Kock, occupying the opening berth for South Africa in these ODIs, chipped in with a useful 47 before being dismissed by Sri Lankan tweaker Akila Dananjaya (3/50), while du Plessis departed for an identical score after the two shared a stand of 86. Duminy finished the job with some flush hitting, and the experienced, returning Proteas batsman was quick to deflect praise to his bowlers while citing the importance of a positive mindset on the back of a Test series defeat.
"We've been talking of taking positive actions irrespective of situations. There are a few demons that go on when you walk out and think of taking these positive actions. We can take a lot of confidence out of today. We can still learn, and we can adapt to this positive mindset. Rabada was saying it was nice to see some nicks after the Test series, there was something in the wicket. The seamers utilised it well. It was South African lengths we were looking to bowl and nick the guys out. There was something in it for the seamers and the spinners got some turn later," he said.
Sri Lanka will look to bounce back from defeat in the next ODI of the five-match series on 1 August in Dambulla.
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