Sri Lanka Crash to SA Seamers

A superb display from South Africa?s seamers sent Sri Lanka tumbling under the Ahmedabad lights and flung Group B of the ICC Champions Trophy wide open. On another slow wicket, the Proteas stuttered to 219, but that proved far too much for the highly-regarded Asians as they could only muster 141.

With the prospect of a dewy outfield come the evening, Mahela Jayawardene won the toss and chose to field, a decision that appeared justified when South Africa were teetering themselves at 30 for three. Chaminda Vaas swung the new ball both prodigiously and accurately to remove both openers within nine overs. Jayawardene?s coupling of Vaas? incision and a deft field placing was the key reason for Graeme Smith chipping to a short midwicket trap, while a brilliant catch from Kumar Sangkarra, standing up to the stumps, saw the back of Boeta Dippenaar. Sandwiched in between their dismissals was that of Herschelle Gibbs, who flapped unconvincingly at Lasith Malinga, and was caught behind.

South Africa rebuilt through the experience of Jacques Kallis and youngster AB de Villiers, who had been drafted in to replace all-rounder Andrew Hall. The pair dug in to add 80 together, mostly off the spin of Jayasuriya and Muralitharan, with de Villiers playing the latter with considerable maturity and tidy footwork.

Kallis failed to convert his start into a large score, and was stumped off Jayasuriya for 43, but de Villiers went on to make his second ODI fifty, eventually falling for an 88-ball 54. Mark Boucher?s 29 held the innings together after their departures, setting up a position from which Shaun Pollock (21 not out) and Robin Peterson (22) to club 32 from the final two overs of the innings and lift the score over 200. Vaas finished off with the exceptionally economical figures of 10-3-16-1, but the real damage was done by Malinga, who took four for 53.

The Sri Lankan top four ? also incidentally the four leading scorers in ODI cricket this calendar year ? had been largely responsible for their recent success, but they ran into a brick wall in the form of Pollock and Makhaya Ntini. Sanath Jayasuriya, unable to free his arms in his usual manner, received a poor LBW decision from Umpire Daryll Harper to give Ntini his first wicket, and he was quickly followed by Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara. When Marvan Atapattu isread Andre Nel?s inswinger, Sri Lanka were choking at 34 for four, and the soft underbelly of a top-heavy batting order was exposed. They rallied around Mahela Jayawardene, who carved out an unconvincing 35, but a mix-up with Tillakaratne Dilshan all but settled the match. Dilshan drove low and hard to backward point, where Gibbs produced a stunning dive and throw to Pollock at the bowler?s end, who launched himself even more spectacularly at the stumps to leave Jayawardene stranded.

Dilshan hung around to eventually compile 36, before he too fell victim to Gibbs? athleticism at backward point. Chaminda Vaas provided the only real resistance to the South African seamers in a free-flowing unbeaten 29, as Nel, Ntini and Justin Kemp polished off the tail to complete a 78-run victory. The match ended with a slippery, dew-drenched outfield, but South Africa did not even have to resort to the spin of Peterson. Their pace battery of Pollock, Ntini and Nel was the perfect countermeasure to Sri Lanka?s dangerous upper order, and an undercooked lower-order was left with an Alpine struggle for victory. Sri Lanka, possibly second-favourites after Australia before today?s clash, now look set to miss out on qualification to the semi-finals: they must hope Pakistan can beat both South Africa and New Zealand by convincing margins to diminish their currently superior net run rates. South Africa must win against Pakistan to be sure of qualifying, but could still progress to the next stage if New Zealand fail to beat Pakistan.

South Africa 219-9 (50 overs)
Jacques Kallis 43, AB de Villiers 54
Lasith Malinga 4-53, Chaminda Vaas 2-16, Sanath Jayasuriya 2-36

Sri Lanka 141 all out (39.1 overs)
Mahela Jayawardene 36, Tillakaratne Dilshan 36, Chaminda Vaas 29 not out
Andre Nel 3-41, Shaun Pollock 2-21, Makhaya Ntini 2-21

South Africa won by 78 runs

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Shaun Pollock

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