South Africa have beaten hosts Sri Lanka in a Group C match at the T20 World Cup 2012 and they've done it in some style. The World No 2 in this format of the game walloped the hosts by 32 runs in a rain-shortened match that offered each side an innings of only seven overs.
Earlier in the tournament both sides were emphatic victors over the group's third side, Zimbabwe, meaning this game was a dead rubber to start with. However, such thinking was nowhere to be seen when AB de Villiers and Mahela Jayawardene led their teams out... if this wasn't about points... it was about bragging rights and about playing yourself into form.
South Africa 78/4 (AB de Villiers 30; Nuwan Kulasekara 1/9) beat Sri Lanka 46/5 (K Sangakkara 13; D Steyn 2/10) by 32 runs
Player of the Match
AB de Villiers (SA)
The Sri Lankans won the toss and decided to field; there really wasn't too much of an option for the hosts. A seven over-a-side game effectively makes the game an even bigger lottery than usual. One could perhaps argue the Sri Lankans should have batted first because the ball was more likely to move around later in the day... but the point here is that "later in the day" was really only half an hour or so... it just didn't matter.
In any case, we did, at the least, enjoy a reasonably entertaining dash to the finish line.
The South African innings started poorly for the batting side, with first match hero Richard Levi (4) dismissed after just four balls. The 24-year-old right hander fired a 44-ball 50 against Zimbabwe to lead the Proteas to the win but barely troubled scorers tonight, courtesy of a superb catch by Dilshan Munaweera, who chased back from mid-on.
His dismissal barely ruffled Hashim Amla's feathers, though, and the man whose solidity at the crease is becoming legendary calmed his team's nerves with three sweetly struck boundaries of the next six balls (two of them off Lasith Malinga in the next over). The first was an imperious drive over cover, off a good length ball in the corridor outside off stump. He followed that with an even better shot - driven to extra cover and finished Malinga's first over with the best of the lot - a half volley on off stump guided past the extra cover region again.
Sri Lanka struck back in the third over, with Rangana Herath's slow left arm doing the damage... and it was the danger man who went. Amla (16), lulled perhaps into a false sense of security after the three earlier boundaries, came down the track to meet Herath, who got the ball to just about hold its line through to wicket keeper Sangakkara, who did the rest. Big wicket... or so Sri Lanka thought.
By this time South Africa were 27/2 after three overs.
Amla's dismissal brought captain de Villiers to the crease and he led from the front. The fourth over, by Angelo Mathews, was played out to some quick running between the wickets, fetching the batsmen eight valuable runs.
The fifth, sixth and seventh overs yielded 43 runs. de Villiers began the final assault with a four and a six off Herath's second over and followed that with another six in Malinga's second. Quick running between the wickets got the batsmen two runs of each of the second, third, fourth and fifth deliveries to add to the seven off the first two but the sixth brought trouble. de Villiers mistimed a full ball angled across the stumps and found only the fielder at mid-off. JP Duminy closed out the South African innings with 10 runs of the final two balls.
Sri Lanka had to get off to a fantastic start to match an asking rate of over 10 runs an over... and it did not. Despite Jayawardene's boundary of the third ball, poor running between the wickets in the next ball (and some brilliant fielding from de Villiers) meant his partner, Tillakaratne Dilshan (0) was out without even facing a ball. The situation went from bad to worse for the hosts in the next over.
The searing pace of Dale Steyn stifled the batsmen through the first five balls and Jayawardene (4) was forced to hit out at the sixth, looking for that boundary. He found only Farhaan Behardien at deep square leg and Sri Lanka were 8/2. Any chance of a monumental comeback were then effectively denied after a fine third over from Morne Morkel, who conceded only five runs of his second and final over of the match.
De Villiers then gave his spinners a very brief outing, with Johan Botha coming on. And he too kept the Sri Lankans quiet, except for one boundary - a slightly fuller than ideal ball lobbed through long-off for four. Two Sri Lankan wickets fell in the next two overs, as Jacques Kallis and then Steyn outthought Sangakkara (13) and Thisara Perera (1) respectively, to reduce the hosts to 38/4 with only one over left. Albie Morkel came back for the last over and ensured the visitors showed no mercy, holding back the boundaries and picking up the wicket of Munaweera to boot.
South Africa will progress as winners of Group C (C1) and Sri Lanka as the second placed team (C2), while Zimbabwe have been eliminated. The South Africans will face the winners of the winners of Group A and the runners up from Groups B and D, while Sri Lanka will face the opposite ranked teams in the Super Eights stage.