Andile Phehlukwayo. Picture: REUTERS/DINUKA LIYANAWATTE
Andile Phehlukwayo. Picture: REUTERS/DINUKA LIYANAWATTE

Andile Phehlukwayo’s knuckleball. Quinton de Kock’s drive. Sri Lanka’s fielding.

That is all you need to know if you are pushed for time to find out how SA beat Sri Lanka in the second one-day international in Dambulla on Wednesday.

Another win in Kandy on Sunday would give the visitors the series with two games left to play, a remarkable turnaround given how emphatically the home side won both Tests.

The knuckleball earned Phehlukwayo only one wicket in his haul of 3/45, but he made good use of the non-spinning, butterflying, swan-diving delivery to trouble all who faced him.

Seven of De Kock’s 13 fours were sumptuous drives and he hit a six in his 78-ball 87 — his first half-century in eight Test and one-day innings and a convincing return to form. He looked well on his way to a century when he shoved a delivery from seamer Kasun Rajitha down deep midwicket’s throat.

De Kock had help from the Lankans, who dropped him on 18 and 22.

Hashim Amla was also given a life, on four. All three times the bowler was the luckless Rajitha.

The home side’s ground fielding was closer in quality to what you might see in a game in a park in which the bloke at fine leg takes a swig from a beer and a pull on a smoke between deliveries, than what is acceptable at this level.

Having been limited to 244/8, Sri Lanka needed a special performance in the field to compete with the visitors.

Instead they let themselves down badly, and SA won by four wickets with 43 balls to spare to take a 2-0 lead in the rubber.

The Lankans were on the back foot as early as the second over of the match, when Lungi Ngidi had Upul Tharanga caught behind and trapped Kusal Mendis in front with consecutive deliveries on his way to figures of 3/50.

Angelo Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella shared 67, Sri Lanka’s only half-century stand, however their success came at a price.

Mathews, who nursed his team past 200 with an unbeaten 72, was troubled by a hamstring problem and Dickwella, who scored 69, needed treatment after being hit in the ribs by Wiaan Mulder.

The tone for SA’s innings was set by De Kock and Amla, who put on 91 for the first wicket before the latter slapped a return catch to Akila Dananjaya.

Amla’s 43 was his best effort in his last 11 Test and one-day innings for SA, both in terms of his score as well as how comfortable he looked at the crease.

Faf du Plessis’ flirtation with 50 continued. Having been dismissed for 49 and 48 in the Test series and 47 in the first match of the ODI series on Sunday, SA’s captain was out for 49 on Wednesday — this time to Dananjaya, who claimed another return catch to end a partnership of 53 between De Kock and Du Plessis.

On a different day with a different result in the offing Du Plessis’ fate would have been written up as a bad omen for the games ahead.

But SA never looked like losing, even when they sacrificed four wickets for 69 runs in 12.3 overs in wending their way to victory.

And so, with the visitors having taken sweets from babies, to Kandy.