Dane van Niekerk in action. © WICB

Dane Van Niekerk scored a 55-ball 71 and took 3/12 to lead The Proteas to a comfortable 7-wicket victory with 34 balls remaining over Sri Lanka in the first T20 International in Cape Town, Newlands.

The Proteas take a 1-0 lead in the three-match T20 Series as Proteas Captain Van Niekerk led from the front with both bat and bowl. Van Niekerk’s 3/12 and Masabata Klaas’s 2/22 helped the home side restrict Sri Lanka to 90-8 in 20 overs.

Imalka Mendis 25 (24) and 27 (41) Hasini Perera were the only two Sri Lankan batswomen who put up a fight against the strong Proteas bowling attack.

With Lizelle Lee withdrawn from the tour after failing to meet the team’s fitness standards, Proteas sent in Van Niekerk and Tazmin Brits to open the batting. Chasing a modest total of 91, the home side were going nicely at 6.25 runs an over before Brits 10 (11) threw her wicket away when she sliced up a Kulasuriya fuller delivery to Mendis at backward point.

Marizanne Kapp joined Van Niekerk but didn’t last long as also sliced a fullish delivery but to short third man looking to go over cover, caught by Prabodhani off the bowling of de Silva for 5 (8).

Van Niekerk who is in good form found a reliable partner in Mignon du Preez as the experienced pair combined for a stand of 31 to edge the Proteas close to victory, needing 16 of 54 balls to win. The South African captain hit back-to-back boundaries to bring up her half-century from 40 balls. Du Preez was in a hurry to end the game quickly as she went down the track but missed and bowled by Ranaweera for 4(4). Van Niekerk ended the encounter in style with a lofted drive over the bowler’s head to bring up the victory for the Proteas in the 14th over.

Earlier on Sri Lanka got off to a bad start as they lost opening batswomen Anushka Sanjeewani for 9(9) who was starting to look dangerous but was caught at extra cover by Tumi Sekhukhune off the bowling of Masabata Klass inside the first four overs. The Proteas were asked to field first.

Chamari Atapattu and Perera kept the scoreboard ticking for the visitors with their 24 run partnership until Perera  27(41) played one too many sweep shots as she top-edged Proteas captain Dane van Niekerk’s delivery to short fine with Goodall taking an easy catch to leave Sri Lanka on 47-2 just after the halfway stage.

A couple of overs later, Van Niekerk struck twice in one over to remove the experienced Siriwardene 6(9) and Atapattu 7(16). Sekhukhune also joined the party when she bowled out de Silva 2 (5) who was looking for the scoop but missed as she moved too far across.

Proteas kept on taking wickets on regular intervals as Inoka Ranasinghe 5(4) and Udeshika Prabodhani 0(3) were both run out with Klaas picking the wicket of Umesha Thimashini 3(6). Imalka Mendis played a decent knock of 25 of 24 balls hitting two fours to help Sri Lanka reach 90-8 in their allocated 20 overs.

Van Niekerk was named the player of the match for her brilliant performance. The second T20 International will take place on Sunday, 03 February at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.