SA hold on for victory

The 2005/06 VB series is rapidly becoming the closest in recent years. Just 2 points separate the three teams after a well-timed unbeaten century by South African opener Boeta Dippennar set up a thrilling 9 run win over the Sri Lankans in Adelaide.

South Africa gained the early edge as Graeme Smith won the toss and elected to bat on a flat Adelaide Oval deck. The Sri Lankan team, coming off comprehensive victory over Australia on Sunday night, looked to continue their good form early on, bowling a restrictive line and managing to contain the run rate to under four an over for the first 15 overs. An out of form Smith struggled to find his timing while Dippennar battled away at the other end.

Sri Lankan captain Marvan Attapatu brought Muttiah Muralitharan on after 18 overs, a decision which proved to be immeadiately effective as Murali picked up the wickets of Smith and Johan van der Wath with only the second and third balls of his over, taking his ODI wicket tally to 400. Smith was stumped stretching to a ball in attempt to work it on the onside while van der Wath inside-edged a perfect length delivery to bat-pad (2/72).

Jaques Rudolph then joined Dippennar at the crease, yet there was no real change in the run rate. Rudolph was taking his time to judge the pitch while his partner was yet to fire even though he showed signs of acceleration, including an effortless tap through the on-side for four. Unfortunately for Rudolph he would score no more than 11 runs as Dilshan accepted a return catch with ease, leaving the score on 3/101 with less than half the allocated overs remaining.

What began as a sedate partnership between Herschelle Gibbs and Dippennar rapidly transformed into blistering 119 run-fest which later proved match-winning. A combination of conventional strokeplay and innovative hitting saw Gibbs reach his fifty in no time and Dippennar drastically increase his scoring rate. It wasn’t until the 46th over that the Sri Lankans managed a break through, Gibbs bowled to Pererra for 68 off only 65 balls (4/220). Meanwhile Dippennar brought up his third ODI century, an impressive knock which ensured his side would reach a competitive total at the very least. Shaun Pollock was the only causality last few overs, falling to Kuleraseka for 8. Dippennar finished his superb innings unbeaten on 125 out of a score of 5/263.

The Sri Lankan reply began in very much the same vein as the Proteas innings, some tight bowling minimised the amount of runs scored. A struggling Jehan Mubarak was the first victim, caught at mid-wicket off the bowling of Pollock (1/11). With the run rate falling well below what was required, both Sanath Jayasuria and Kumar Sangakarra decided it was time to fire. Some powerful strikes from both players saw the scoreboard begin to tick over at an alarming rate. Luckily for the South Africans, some swift glove work from keeper Mark Boucher saw danger-man Jayasuria stumped down the leg-side off Andrew Hall for 37. Sangakarra followed straight after, caught and bowled by van der Wath off his first ball, leaving the score on 2/68 off 13.1 overs.

A steady partnership between Tillerkaratne Dilshan and Attapatu followed until another stroke of brilliance from Boucher halted the Sri Lankans’ charge. After striking Attapatu on the pads, the Proteas, including Boucher, launched into a full appeal. While appealing, Boucher managed to catch the ball, realize Attapatu was out of his crease and flick the ball onto the stumps without more than a glance to run the captain out (4/117).

What the Sri Lankans needed now was a fast scoring, but stable, partnership. Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene delivered just that as they pushed the team total past 200 in no time. What now seemed a relatively easy run-a-ball cruise to victory quickly changed into a late overs scramble for the required runs. Jayawardene was bowled by van der Wath for a well made run a ball fifty. This crucial wicket switched the momentum back in the favour of the South Africans and they made full use of it, dismissing Russel Arnold for 11 and Malinga for a golden duck as Hall backed up his second wicket with a run out. A Sri Lankan victory was still a serious possibility until Vaas holed out to mid off in the 49th over, handing Pollock his second wicket, his elation made evident when the veteran not only hugged his teammates, but also umpire Aleem Dar. Only one run came off the last over of Hall, handing the South Africans a hard-earned win. Dilshan was easily the pick of the Sri Lankan batsman finishing unbeaten on 82.

With the series well and truly in the balance, all attention now turns to the hugely important Australia Day clash between the home side and Sri Lanka.

South Africa: 5 for 263 Dippenaar 125*, Muralitharan 2/45
Sri Lanka: 8 for 254 Dilshan 82*, Jayawardene 52, van der Wath 2/37, Hall 2/38

South Africa win by 9 runs

Cricket Web Player of the Match:
Boeta Dippenaar (125*)

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