SA down Sri Lanka in Perth

South Africa has overcome a shaky start to put themselves in the box seat for the remaining finals spot in the VB Series after defeating Sri Lanka by five wickets in Perth tonight.

The Proteas cruised to victory, chasing down Sri Lanka’s 221 with 4.5 overs to spare but it could, and possibly should, have been a much tougher proposition.

Sri Lanka would have been thinking of victory themselves after a fantastic start saw them with 1-137 after 21.4 overs but some strong bowling and a dramatic collapse handed the South Africans an advantage they were never going to give up.

Marvan Atapattu won the toss and quickly decided to bat on a belter of a wicket at the WACA and his decision appeared vindicated as Jehan Mubarak and Sanath Jayasuriya raced to a 94 run stand within 15 overs.

With off spinner Johan Botha sitting in the stands as the team’s supersub, captain Graeme Smith brought himself on to stop the flow of runs and his decision paid instant dividends.

Mubarak was starting to look the most fluent he had all summer but was deceived by a flatter, quicker delivery from Smith and bottom edged the ball back onto his stumps to be dismissed for 31.

Meanwhile the veteran destroyer, Jayasuriya, overcame the loss of his opening partner and an apparent back injury to bring his own havoc to the South African attack.

A total of nine fours and three sixes came off Jayasuriya’s blade as he raced into the 80s and appeared to give his team the perfect platform but a late cut off the bowling of that man Smith was acrobatically caught by Ashwell Prince at backward point and with the score at 2-137 it was about as good as it got for Sri Lanka.

Jayasuriya was disappointed to get dismissed for 86 off 65 balls but couldn’t have predicted the carnage his exit would provoke in his team’s batting line-up.

Smith again broke through just two overs later to trap Jayawardene in front for one and when Kumar Sangakkara (16) was caught by Justin Kemp off the bowling of Charl Langeveldt the score was suddenly 4-144.

Atapattu, Russell Arnold, Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekera then all fell in quick succession as the promising start became a nightmare with the score at 8-182 off 38.4 overs.

Tillekaratne Dilshan (37) and supersub Malinga Bandara then added some resistance to get the total past 200 but a couple of run outs at the end of the innings typified a wasted opportunity for the Sri Lankans who finished all out for just 221 with 14 balls still remaining.

Smith’s 3-30 was a remarkable return for a part-time off-spinner and Shaun Pollock built on his captain’s breakthroughs with 2-17 off his ten overs.

The total never looked enough on a good track for batting and the only real question was if South Africa could get the runs inside 40 overs to pick up a bonus point.

Smith completed a good day with a well-made 41 off 52 balls before falling to Muttiah Muralitharan and Jacques Rudolph and Boeta Dippenaar steered the Proteas towards the bonus point with an eighty run stand.

Dippenaar was particularly impressive, his 87 off 94 ball featuring three sixes and continuing his strong form during this series.

The wicketkeeping of Sangakkara and some quality spin bowling by Murali (3-44) and Bandara (2-47) saved the bonus point from being relinquished but when Justin Kemp was dismissed for six with the score at 5-190 there was little doubt of the result.

Mark Boucher (30*) and Ashwell Prince (20*) steered the Proteas to 5-224 and victory, with the only talking point of the last few overs being the application of Sri Lanka’s last power play in over 46 – the first time a power play has been taken so late in one-day internationals.

As it was the power play only lasted one ball, Prince pulling Kulasekera for a boundary of the first ball of the 46th over to seal the win.

Victory means Sri Lanka must now beat South Africa when the two teams meet in the final round robin match of the series and hope the Australians defeat the Proteas twice beforehand to avoid missing the finals, and South Africa will have plenty of confidence after coming through a scare unscathed to post a fairly convincing win in the end.

Sri Lanka 221
S Jayasuriya 86, T Dilshan 37
G Smith 3/30, S Pollock 2/17

South Africa 5-224, 45.1 overs
B Dippenaar 87, G Smith 41
M Muralitharan 3/44, M Bandara 2/47

South Africa win by five wickets

Cricketweb Man of the Match
Graeme Smith (RSA) 3/30 and 41

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