Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - South Africa bloom in style, and realism. The visitors know they will face better T20I teams than Sri Lanka in the coming months
The visitors know they will face better T20I teams than Sri Lanka in the coming months
The sorry not sorry strains of “It wasn't me” rang out from the Premadasa's speakers after 13 overs of South Africa's reply in the third T20I on Tuesday. Another dozen runs were needed and the visitors had yet to lose a wicket. Ten balls later the match was over.
South Africa completed their third 10-wicket win in the format and their first over Sri Lanka thanks to an unbroken stand of 121 shared by Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock. It was the highest T20I stand for any wicket against the Lankans by South Africa, and it sealed their 3-0 series whitewash.
What does Shaggy's 2000 ode to philandering mysogeny – the song is about a man who has been caught cheating on his partner asking advice from a friend, who tells him to deny his guilt – have to do with Tuesday's game?
Maybe this: who was that out there in the blue and yellow playing kit? They looked like Sri Lanka, but they didn't play like Sri Lanka – not even compared to the team that had lost the first two games.
The Lankans were 28/4 after four overs and 86/7 in the 15th, when the South Africans – satisfied that the contest had all but been decided – eased up a touch. The rest of the match had all the intensity of a folded umbrella.
Under the circumstances it was almost unfair to ask Dasun Shanaka what he was going to do about the way his team had limped through the series. “Our bowling was quite good but we need to think about our batting,” he said at the presentation. Who could argue with that.
Perhaps it's only right that players subjected to the meaninglessness of a dead rubber should respond as abjectly poorly as the home side's did. If the suits insist on forcing them to honour a rubbish fixture, we should expect them to play rubbish cricket.
But there's another side to this story. The game was as irrelevant to the South Africans as it was to their opponents, except – for both teams – as practice for the T20 WC in the similar conditions of the UAE and Oman in October and November. Somehow, the visitors found the motivation to go once more unto the breach before making the long trip home without those who are IPL-bound.
It helped, no doubt, that they could relax in the knowledge that the series had been won on Sunday. And that it sealed a hattrick of T20I series wins, which started with an impressive 3-2 conquest of current world champions West Indies in Grenada in July. Also that victory on Tuesday would have been South Africa's seventh without defeat in the format, which would have equalled their record run of consecutive T20I wins.
You can tell yourself all of that. Believing it well enough to give of your best is another matter. How did the South Africans get up for a game that, by several measures, didn't matter?
“This team realises that we're definitely not the finished product,” Mark Boucher told an online press conference. “We had a very good chat [on Monday] with regards to where we are and the lessons we've learnt coming from the West Indies, and where we want to go as a team. Keshav [Maharaj] had some good words to say along with a couple of other senior players.
“We understand that, going into a World Cup, you've got to treat each game as importantly as the others. Lifting yourself up for games you're expected to win, you've still got to go out there and win. It's part of the growth of the team; we're not really focused on the outcome, it's more about the processes and what we're doing in the build up to big games.”
The visitors know they will face better T20I teams than Sri Lanka in the coming months. They also know they have beaten one of those superior sides in the Caribbean not long ago. And they know this: it was them who won, both times. Realism is a beautiful thing.