“Shamsi might have walked away with the player of the match award, but the South African fast bowlers led by Rabada deserve equal credit if not more”

After taking a drubbing in the Test series, Sri Lanka bounced back with an emphatic win in the first ODI at Dambulla. It was a perfect day for them as all their departments clicked and managed to humble Sri Lanka at their own den. In my previous piece, I had written about how Sri Lanka need to be wary of South Africa in the ODIs and not get carried away by the Proteas’ below-par performance in the two-match series. Sri Lanka found that out the hard way and will have to make a strong comeback in the second ODI at the same venue in three day’s time.

After Angelo Mathews decided to bat first after winning the toss, he would have hoped for a stable start from the top three and then counted in the middle-order. However, within the first 45 minutes winning the toss was the only highlight as they were reduced to 36-5 inside 9 overs. It was their fast bowlers that did all the damage in the beginning, which eased the pressure on the spinners to deliver. However, the job still needed to be done. Tabraiz Shamsi then managed to pick up 4 out of the 5 wickets to fall after Kusal Perera (81) and Thisara Perera (49) had taken Sri Lanka away from the threat of being bowled out for an embarrassing total.

Spin had dominated the Test series, but things have started off quite differently in the ODIs. It was the South African bowlers who came out on top in the first ODI, set up beautifully by their quicks.

Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi troubled the Sri Lankan batsmen early on with their pace and accuracy. There wasn’t much swing on offer, but they showed that you can get the results by just hitting the deck hard and bowling in the right channels. However, with just 193 on the board, all South Africa had to do was to bat sensibly, look to play out the 50 overs and they would be home. They got there with 19 overs and 5 wickets to spare.

Sri Lanka once again decided to bombard South Africa with spin right from the beginning. Akila Dananjaya did pick up a couple of early wickets, but after that, neither he nor the other fast bowlers could do further damage after that until a point the Proteas were in a comfortable position. Their fast bowlers were unable to get much off the pitch and were a bit wayward with their bowling as well. JP Duminy took a special liking towards the Lankan bowling and blasted his way to a quickfire fifty.

Another question one needs to answer is why Lakshan Sandakan bowled as many as 90vers, especially when he was being belted for 9 an over. Why wasn’t Lahiru Kumara given more overs? He could have troubled South Africa with some serious pace. Also, unless Thisara Perera had an injury, there was no reason why he could not chip in with a few overs. Sri Lanka might consider bringing in either Dasun Shanaka or Kasun Ranjitha. If Shanaka comes in, it will add more depth to Sri Lanka’s batting as well.

Fast bowlers doing well in Sri Lanka is not altogether new. While South Africa have found a bunch of fast bowlers who can do the job for them, Sri Lankan quicks have really not come to the party. There are still four matches to go in the series and it is not just the Sri Lankan spinners who have to do the job, but it’s also the fast bowlers. Also, it wouldn’t hurt if their batsmen got more runs on the board.


Shamsi might have walked away with the player of the match award, but the South African fast bowlers led by Rabada deserve equal credit if not more. Hopefully, Sri Lanka are still not hungover with their Test series victory. Sri Lanka do not lack quality in their fast bowling department but need to use them more wisely. They will look to do that from the second ODI.

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