Sri Lanka’s batsmen undid all the good work done by their bowlers, as the crumbled while chasing a very modest total, handing South Africa a victory in the first T20 at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Set a very gettable target of 116, the response was almost farcical, as the Sri Lankan batting embarrassed themselves in front of a capacity crowd.  Kumar Sangakkara fought, but around him the rest crumbled as Sri Lanka only managed 103 for the loss of 9 wickets.

Sangakkara ended up on an unbeaten 59. The next highest score was 11. Perhaps Sri Lanka took the below par target too easily. Rash and aggressive strokes at the top were followed by a lack of urgency, before the accumulated pressure ended up in an all out collapse. With Mahela Jayawardene rested again, and Sangakkara pushed down to number four, the onus was on the young talent. Kusal Perera responded with another failure; playing a couple of rash shots before getting out for 11. Chandimal followed soon after in a similar fashion. At the depth, with the required rate rising, the lower middle order completely lost their heads, throwing away their wickets in quick succession while Sangakkara watched helplessly from the other end. Mathews fell to a soft dismissal, chipping the ball tamely back to the bowler. The very next ball Jeevan Mendis tried to sweep out of the ground, only to hole out in the deep. It was senseless batting at its finest.

It was the 19th over that sealed the game for the South Africans. With 21 run required of 18 deliveries, Sachithra Senanayake started swinging wildly instead of looking to get the in form Sangakkara on strike. The over ended up being a double wicket maiden, all but confirming an incredible heist by the Proteas.

It was Senanayake that set up the Sri Lankans nicely in the first innings however, and at the innings break the Proteas wouldn’t have been very comfortable with their total. Senanayake took wickets in his first 3 overs, and the Proteas struggled against the Lankan spinners. Only JP Duminy offered any resistance, as he hit a fighting half century to drag South Africa to a score of 115. As it turned out, it was more than enough.

Sri Lanka’s domestic record of chasing is far from impressive. It is a worrying sign and indicates that the middle order does not handle pressure very well. Every team has their off days though, and while today’s performance was certainly very disappointing, perhaps the players should be given the rest of the series to prove themselves before being burnt at the stake.

The teams now move to Hambantota for the final two games, and Sri Lanka will hope that a change in venue brings about a change in their fortunes in the shortest format.

South Africa  115 for 6 (Duminy 51, Senanayake 3-14) beat Sri Lanka 103 for 9 (Sangakkara 59*, Duminy 3-18) by 12 runs

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