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Cricket | Sri Lanka tour of South Africa 2018/19

Isuru Udana © Getty Images

Tour Diary – Sri Lanka in South Africa, Week 6



25 MARCH

Despite losing all five odis and three T20Is, Sri Lanka’s 2019 tour of South Africa will always remembered as one of their greatest overseas sojourns in the island’s history. In 140 years of test cricket, they became only the third nation to win a series on these shores after England and Australia.

The Proteas made some wretched mistakes before and during the test series but, despite playing poor cricket, still should never have lost. But they did and the Lankans will celebrate their achievement for many decades to come, and rightly.

The 153* by Kusal Perera in the first test was not just one of Sri Lanka’s best, but an entry for eternity in the ‘best fourth innings’ in test history. The unbeaten 6 by his partner, Vishwa Fernando, will be hard to beat in the category of ‘best and least remembered contribution by a number 11.’

South Africa’s batting was dreadful but, never worse than when the last five wickets feel for just eight runs at Kingsmead, but as batting coach Dale Benkenstein ruefully noted, it was the batsmen who were blamed for defeat despite the bowlers being unable to dismiss the last man for two hours.

Revenge could not have been more severely exacted – eight wins out of eight. But it is also a measure of the esteem in which players hold test cricket that it was massively insufficient to heal the wounds.

Overall, the summer’s numbers make good reading. Excellent reading. 13 out of 16 ODIs were won across four series and eight out of nine T20s for a total of 21 wins from 25 fixtures (discounting the T20 washout against Zimbabwe in Benoni).

South African teams have enjoyed similarly impressive records before World Cups in years gone by, especially in 1999. Which is why there is a collective shrug of the national shoulders. It all feels slightly irrelevant. The 2-1 series win against Australia was impressive and cheering, expected against Zimbabwe, under-appreciated against Pakistan and, frankly, awkwardly straightforward against Sri Lanka.

It was good to have them here, however. They arrived in a mess after maulings in New Zealand and Australia and with perennial in-house fighting at its worst with captain Dinesh Chandimal sacked and their best player, Angelo Mathews, sidelined. The test bounce-back was one of the most unlikely of all time. So, gentlemen, we thank you for that. And no longer through gritted teeth.


23 MARCH

There's no pleasing some people – it's always been that way. Winning a T20 International by 16 runs is the soccer equivalent of a 3-1 scoreline but there were still plenty of fans unhappy with the late fightback from Isuru Uduna.

Sure, the Proteas seemed certain the win the match '8-0' but it didn't happen because one man produced a virtuoso display of hitting which added a veneer of respectability to what threatened to be an embarrassing hiding. Credit to him.

A couple of years ago Udana appeared to have been rejected by Sri Lanka Cricket which stopped selecting him and failed to offer him a national retainer contract. But he believed in himself – he knew he had what it took to succeed in T20 cricket as a left-arm seamer and occasional hitter.

When he was told that his batting was not good enough, he decided to prove them wrong and turn himself into a travelling T20 mercenary and prepared to compete for contracts around the world. .

Now he’s proved himself on this tour – twice – and has booked his place in the World Cup squad. Good for him. He's a fine example of those 'never give up on your dreams' stories.

Talking of 'no pleasing some people'… Just as South Africa's national team no longer allows irrational and uninformed opinion to upset them, perhaps it is time for the country's better cricket lovers to stop reacting to it. After all, nobody can be serious about doubting the credentials of the players recently introduced to the T20 team.

Lutho Sipamla has been outstanding in the first two games of the T20 series and Sinethemba Qeshile has been the outstanding batsman of the domestic season.

He averages 48 in first-class cricket and just happens to be an extremely talented wicket keeper, too. There isn't the slightest suggestion of 'potential' about either of them. They have earned their call-ups and their records irrefutably confirm that. Sure, of course some black players have been promoted prematurely in years gone by but those who use social media to cast doubt on two such obviously talented cricketers either has no idea about the game – or has a deeply unhealthy agenda.

Either way, they really should be ignored. There is nothing to be gained from arguing into a vacuum.



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