Blockbusters are made of this – South Africa’s brave fightback chasing 301 conceding defeat at the last post by 14 runs to Sri Lanka’s new young brigade in a new aura pathway fashioned by a masterly 115-ball 118 by Avishka Fernando in the opening ODI at the R. Premadasa International Stadium.
The opener from cricket crazy city of Moratuwa infused calculated precision in a stroke filled knock laced with 10 boundaries and 2 sixes sharing in a 71-ball 97-run fourth wicket partnership with Charith Asalanka in Sri Lanka’s mammoth 300 for 9.
If Fernando’s masterpiece set decorated him in the portals of the coveted threé figure mark in his third ton, the day also illuminated young Asalanka in stamping himself by a heady innings 72 off 62 (6×4, 1×6) to the cause. That the innings revolved around a sturdy 44 by the technical flair of vice captain Dhananjaya de Silva was hieghtening stuf.
Of course, that the South Africans nearly ran away with the match the unlikely winners coursing from 69 for 1 off 13.5 overs and ascending to 159 without further loss off 36.4 and 228 for 4 by the 41st over and 267 for 4 by the 47th was unnerving to the Lankans who had to pull on all stoppers to stall the ominous Proteas in the face of the bowling coming for quite some stick courtesy Aiden Markram’s blistering 90-ball 96 driven by four over the top and 5 to the ropes. His 106-run second wicket bonding with skipper Temba Bavuma was the swaying point, but alas, the skipper being put out retired hurt on 38 off 53 hit by a throw by Wanindu Hasaranga was costly when the pair were well set. Markram fell at 166 off the fifth delivery of the 30th over off leggie Praveen Jayawickrama, but Rassie Vander Dussein stepped in clouting a run a ball 59 inclusive of 6 boundaries to carry the fight.
Going down to the wire, South Africa needing 73 off 49 was nerve tingling with the contest poised either way until the Lankans had bridged the gap to 38 off 17 and tightened the grip in the death overs South Africa finishing on 286 for 6.
The win for a 1-up lead did signal a turnaround of the new brigade in Sri Lanka questing a new aura in a truly heavyweight squaring capped by Avishka Fernando’s Player of the Match thumbs up performance that made the differencé.