De Kock, De Villiers fashion historic win
South Africa 339 for 5 (De Kock 128, De Villiers 108, Herath 2-48) beat Sri Lanka 257 (Mathews 58, McLaren 3-37) by 82 runs
Grinding hundreds like Hashim Amla's in the first ODI and glorious ones like AB de Villiers' in Hambantota. Quickfire starts like Tillakaratne Dilshan's fifty off 40 balls in Pallekele and Sri Lanka's 99 off the first ten overs in the finale. Dramatic collapses - Sri Lanka recorded 5 for 13 in Colombo and 5 for 11 in the second ODI, South Africa contributed 5 for 26 in the same game - this series seemed to have it all. Except a run-out. So it was only fitting that when one came, it proved decisive in a contest which saw South Africa make history by winning a first-ever fifty-over rubber in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka had polished off almost a third of the target in the powerplay with Kusal Perera pouncing on anything too full, too short or too much on his pads. When he fell on his sword, Dilshan and a belligerent Kumar Sangakkara took over and continued to knock South Africa's plans out of shape. With the wind causing havoc and the runs coming easily, Sri Lanka didn't need to do anything too risky. But then South Africa introduced the man they hoped would be their trump card, Imran Tahir.
Dilshan hit his first legitimate ball to de Villiers at short midwicket and unthinkingly charged to the other side of the pitch. Sangakkara initially moved forward but then turned back. What could have been a tightly scampered single became a two-horse race to the non-strikers' end. De Villiers didn't need to pull off anything acrobatic, de Kock could afford to fumble and yet Dilshan lost his battle. His fury with Sangakkara would only have got worse over the minutes that followed.
At the end of the next over, Sangakkara was snaffled down the leg side in almost a carbon copy of the way he was dismissed by Morne Morkel on Wednesday. The past continued to hound Sri Lanka when Mahela Jayawardene fell to Tahir for the third time in the series, this time off a top-edged sweep.
Sri Lanka lost three wickets for six runs in the space of 14 balls and with it the chance to pull off the highest chase in the country.
The hosts' middle-order managed to keep the fight alive until the 45th over. Ashan Priyanjan withstood South Africa's seamers peppering him with short balls and put on 83 for the sixth-wicket with Angelo Mathews. The Sri Lankan captain's form continued but when he was dismissed - caught by Morkel at short fine leg to make Ryan McLaren the series' highest wicket-taker - Sri Lanka folded. McLaren was South Africa's most successful bowler but Tahir's control and crucial wicket was what turned a match South Africa would have thought they had by the scruff of the neck at the innings break.
Twin tons from Quinton de Kock and de Villiers took South Africa to their largest score against Sri Lanka. They smothered a spin threat that had grown with the inclusion of Rangana Herath. Although Herath was Sri Lanka's best bowler he had little back-up from anyone else, particularly Lasith Malinga who was off colour for the second time in the series.
De Kock displayed immense progress from South Africa's tour to Sri Lanka last year when he was strangled by the turning ball. His century was his fourth in six innings, fifth overall in an ODI career which is only18 months old and the highest by a South African in an ODI against Sri Lanka. It also maintained his 100% conversion rate of half-centuries into three figures. His only lapse was a mis-hit into the covers, when on 38, and Priyanjan dived to his left but could not hold on.
With Hashim Amla at his side for the opening exchanges and de Villiers to guide him at the end, de Kock also learned how to pace his innings. He featured in a solid opening stand of 118 and resolutely survived the Sri Lankan stranglehold. Mathews' men did not concede a boundary between the 21st and 31st overs, a period in which de Villiers made sure de Kock stayed focused as their union blossomed to 116.
On a flat pitch, De Villiers reprised his usual rapid pace and heralded the late-overs assault with a slog-sweep off Mendis. Malinga's wayward lines were dealt with as de Villiers took complete control of the innings when de Kock was dismissed. Duminy was a silent partner and the pair put on 80 runs in eight overs. Even though Mendis dismissed them both in successive balls, South Africa had scored 187 runs in the last 20 overs of their innings; 95 of which came in the last ten, and put themselves in a position of advantage early on.
Their sole concern will be the struggles of Jacques Kallis. He scored just four to take his series tally to five and keep the questions about his place in the XI swirling.