South Africa keep hopes alive
South Africa kept their ICC Champions Trophy hopes alive with a resounding victory over fancied Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad.
Beaten by New Zealand in their opening match, South Africa had to win if they were to stand any chance of qualifying for next week’s semi-finals.
Their chances of progressing to the last four seemed slim when Sri Lanka restricted them to a modest 219 for nine, despite a late flurry of 22 off 16 balls from Robin Peterson.
But South Africa’s seamers overcame the handicap of bowling with a wet ball, caused by the evening dew, and dismissed Sri Lanka for 141 in 39.1 overs to seal a 78-run triumph.
South Africa now face a showdown with Pakistan later this week to determine whether they will qualify for the final stages of a tournament they won in 1998.
Sri Lanka’s hopes of staying alive in the tournament hinge on other results.
The foundations for South Africa’s emphatic triumph were laid during the final three overs of their innings when Shaun Pollock and Peterson added 38 priceless runs, including 22 off one over from Farveez Maharoof, and gave their side precious momentum.
South Africa’s seamers then kept a tight line and length and prevented Sri Lanka’s attacking batsman getting their side off to a flying start.
Sanath Jayasuriya took 12 balls to reach three before being trapped leg before to Pollock, an early breakthrough which was followed by Makhaya Ntini having Upul Tharanga caught behind.
Kumar Sangakkara, the leading run-scorer in one-day international cricket this year, fell to Pollock and Andre Nel cut a delivery back into Marvan Atapattu’s stumps to leave Sri Lanka reeling on 34 for four.
Aided by the dew allowing the ball to race off the bat quicker, Sri Lanka recovered sufficiently to remain on course for victory with captain Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan teaming up in a determined 44-run stand.
Their hopes of victory effectively ended, however, when Dilshan steered the ball to backward point - only for Herschelle Gibbs to make a brilliant diving stop, and his return throw to the non-striker’s end left Jayawardene stranded after scoring 36 off 50 balls.
Dilshan also contributed a useful 36 only to become one of Nel’s victims when he smashed a long hop outside off stump straight to the diving Gibbs at backward point.
Chaminda Vaas built on an outstanding performance with the ball earlier in the match by hammering 29 off 34 balls, but his innings was in vain.
South Africa’s innings began in similar fashion and they slumped into trouble with left-arm seamer Vaas strangling the top order with an outstanding display of new-ball bowling.
Vaas bounced back from an indifferent display during Sri Lanka’s victory over New Zealand, when he was plagued with wides and no-balls, to claim impressive figures of 10-3-16-2.
He was only hit for one boundary - Jacques Kallis drove him through the covers for four - but that was in the final over of his spell and by then he appeared to have put Sri Lanka firmly on course for victory.
Frustrated by their inability to score off Vaas, South Africa made unnecessary risks and paid the penalty by slipping to 30 for three inside the first nine overs.
It took a determined 80-run stand between Kallis and AB de Villiers, who top-scored with 54 off 88 balls, to put their innings back on track.
But both players fell in a seven over spell to leave Sri Lanka needing a sprint to the line if they were to pass 200 and set anything like a competitive total.
That was provided with Peterson hammering three fours and a six during his quickfire innings but became the first of two victims off successive balls to Lasith Malinga’s in-swinging yorkers.
Pollock finished unbeaten on 21 and produced his traditional accuracy with the new ball to claim 2-21 and begin South Africa’s fightback to victory.