SL Complete Decisive Victory

Tonight was a time for Sri Lankan fans to rejoice. A strong showing by their national side against a quality team ensured a much-needed boost of confidence and signalled a long-awaited return to form. Kumar Sangakkara and Jehan Mubarak set up the Sri Lankan’s innings perfectly, advancing their total to 6/282, a score South Africa would fall 95 short of.

South African captain Graeme Smith won the toss and, surprisingly, elected to bowl on a flat pitch in searing heat. The Proteas were obviously confident that any total was chaseable after their come from behind victory over Australia on Sunday. However, this was a new game and Smith was forced to confront a much less agreeable situation as the opposition got off to a flying start.

Young rookies Upal Tharanga and Mubarak made the early statement, scoring at six and over with ease. Garnett Kruger copped the brunt of the early assault, causing him much frustration. Fortunately he was able to transform his anger into extra effort and was rewarded with the wicket of Tharanga, caught behind slashing at a short and wide delivery for 16 (1/33).

A determined Sangakarra and willing Mubarak ensured that the South African’s joy would be short lived. A quality partnership was formed as a more than adequate flow of boundaries was complemented with regular strike rotation and fine shot selection. Just short of his half-century Mubarak had a lapse in concentration and skied a catch off the bowling of Monde Zondeki. However, a familiar sight followed as the ball once again evaded the Proteas’ grasp. This time Johan Botha was the culprit, dropping a regulation outfield catch.

Botha was able to redeem himself shortly after, trapping his man LBW for 66 off only 69 balls, leaving the score on 2/145 with 26.1 overs remaining. Tillakaratne Dilshan strode to the crease and made a promising start before being trapped by Zondeki for 15. Marvan Attapatu made a sudden change to the batting line up and decided to enter the arena himself in a bid to consolidate the innings. Meanwhile Sangakarra continued scoring at a high speed and was looking a sure bet for a big hundred.

Having reached the 200 mark in the 36th over, many were confident the Sri Lankans would post a 300 plus total. However, the main driving force behind the high scoring rate, Sangakarra, top edged a short of the length delivery off Shaun Pollock to mid-on, ending his superb innings on 88. A steady partnership followed between Mahela Jayawardene and Attapatu until Jayawardene edged a ball to short third man in an attempt to smash Botha for a boundary (5/244).

The fall of wicket exposed a small, yet significant, hole in the Sri Lankan line-up. No real enforcer is present in the side to push the scoring rate up in the late overs. Australia has Symonds, Clarke and Hussey while the South Africans often call upon the services of Mark Boucher and Justin Kemp for the same job. In the place of an enforcer, an accumulator in Russell Arnold took guard.

Instead of dealing a killer blow, characteristic of a late Australian charge, the Sri Lankans could only maintain a decent final-overs scoring rate, losing Marvan Attapatu (33) en route to a score of 6/282.

South Africa faced quite a task from the beginning and a pressure filled first ten overs from Chaminda Vaas and Newan Kulasekara all but meant victory was out of the Proteas’ reach. Vaas trapped Smith LBW for 3 while Kulasekara bowled Dippenaar for 10 (2/30). The intensity in the field seemed to lift at the fall of each wicket and this led to two more as a combination of poor running between the wickets and disciplined fielding resulting in the run-outs of Herschelle Gibbs (7) and Jaques Rudolph, who made a fighting 53.

The game was all but lost with the score on 4/93 in the 21st over. Mark Boucher was the only batsman to offer any more resistance. Ashwell Prince stuck it out for a short time before he was dismissed by Bandara for 29 (5/127). Wickets began to tumble around Boucher as his partners crumbled under the pressure. Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall and Botha were all dismissed for ten or less as the Proteas crashed to be all out for 188, Boucher being the last man out for a well made 62.

Sri Lanka’s win places them 2nd to Australia on the competition table, throwing the 2006 VB wide open. South Africa now play Australia on Friday in a crucial match at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne.

Match Summary:

Sri Lanka: 6/282
K Sangakkara 88, J Mubarak 61
J Botha 2/49

South Africa: 188
M Boucher 62, J Rudolph 53
C Bandana 3/31, C Vaas 2/21, M Muralitharan 2/34

Sri Lanka won by 94 runs

Cricket Web Man of The Match
Kumar Sangakkara

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