SRI LANKA ODI
Can SA turn the corner in Sri Lanka? The signs are good
Amid everything Tabraiz Shamsi said on Sunday — about bowling‚ batting‚ pitches‚ that kind of necessary but mundane stuff — he delivered a nugget of understanding about this mad and sometimes maddening business called cricket.
"Sometimes it works‚ sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just how the game goes‚" he said.
It worked on Sunday‚ when SA reduced Sri Lanka to 36/5 inside nine overs on their way to winning the first ODI by five wickets with 19 overs to spare.
It had not worked in the Test series: Sri Lanka won both matches against an SA side that deteriorated as steadily as the tough but fair pitches they played on.
So confirmation will be sought in the second ODI on Wednesday‚ which like Sunday’s will be played in Dambulla‚ that the visitors have indeed turned the corner.
The prematch portents look good for an answer in the affirmative. The pitch will be the same relatively pacy surface used on Sunday‚ which was a lot more recognisable to the South Africans than the dry‚ dusty‚ turning Test pitches.
Sri Lanka’s chances of levelling the five-match series have suffered in the shape of a hand injury to fast bowler Lahiru Kumara‚ who has been ruled out for Wednesday. Not that Kumara might have made a significant difference: the Lankans have lost all six completed ODIs they have played in Dambulla since August 2014.
Given the conditions, how the home side must wish they could call on a quick of the calibre of Kagiso Rabada‚ who shared eight wickets with Shamsi on Sunday.
At 23 Rabada is the No2-ranked Test bowler — James Anderson knocked him off the top perch on July 22 — and the leader of SA’s attack. Happily he would seem to have the maturity to keep all that in focus.
"I have not come to grips with the fact that I am the leader‚ I don’t see it that way‚" Rabada said in Dambulla on Tuesday. "All I know is I have a responsibility towards the team as the opening bowler."
Rabada is entitled to his opinion but along with being the best bowler in SA’s squad‚ he is easily the most experienced. He has bowled almost six times as many deliveries in international cricket as any other seamer in the group.
And if the pitch behaves on Wednesday like it did on Sunday‚ expect Rabada to further widen the gap.
"The [pitches for the] Test matches were completely different; they were just sandpits‚" Rabada said.
"It’s completely different now as there is good bounce."
At this level teams should not want for motivation, but with a World Cup looming in England at the end of May 2019 both sides will be awash with the stuff in this series.
So something else Shamsi said on Sunday‚ about the previous day’s training‚ would have caught the ear of all his compatriots.
"We were told to have an easy session because it was a day game [on Sunday] but the practice lasted three or four hours. We don’t take it easy."
Sounds like a South African. On Sunday’s evidence they’re playing like South Africans again‚ too.