Proteas: A sense of determination. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Proteas: A sense of determination. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Now departing from Bandaranaike International Airport, SA’s tour of Sri Lanka.

The South Africans did not jet out of Colombo on Tuesday. But given the kind of batting they offered in the last match of their visit to the Asian island, they would have been better off taking a flight home before the first ball was bowled at R Premadasa stadium.

That the Lankans won by only three wickets, with four overs to spare, is a compliment to the visitors’ bowlers, who never gave up what was always a hopeless fight.

It is difficult to bat, bowl or field properly when both of your feet are on a plane, nevermind when you have already fastened your seat belt, lined up the movies you’re going to watch and are trying to decide between chicken or beef.

In SA’s defence, a damn fool T20 gratuitously tacked onto the end of five weeks of Tests and one-day internationals (ODIs) is no way to end a tour.

SA were dismissed for 98, only the eighth time in their 104 games in the format that they have been bowled out and the first time in double figures. They have a new record low score.

And while there were glimpses of a miracle in the making in the Lankans’ reply — Kagiso Rabada’s inspired first over, which brought the wickets of Kusals Perera and Mendis, Heinrich Klaasen’s brilliant catch at short leg to remove Angelo Mathews and Tabraiz Shamsi’s targeted aggression for his career best 2/26 — the result was never in serious doubt.

Yes, Sri Lanka were 63/4, 83/6 and 88/7 but they would not have been quite so gung ho about their chase had SA put up a decent target in the first place.

Dinesh Chandimal, who was banned for both Tests and four of the five ODIs for contravening the code of conduct in the Caribbean in June, celebrated his return with an unbeaten 36.

Nobody else, in either team, looked like they knew a drive from a dead donkey on a pitch that promised many more runs than were scored.

Among the South Africans only Quinton de Kock reached 20 — 16 of them in boundaries — in a shambolic innings that was blighted by four ducks amid five single-figure efforts. The last seven wickets crashed for 41 runs in 53 deliveries.

Chandimal excepted, the Lankans did not fare much better. But there is plenty of room for error when you need only 99 to win.

Tuesday’s result means Sri Lanka won five of the tour’s eight matches, a fact that would ring alarm bells in SA were it not for another fact: the visitors claimed all three of their victories in the one-day series.

With a World Cup on the horizon that answers some of the most important questions.