Sri Lanka Clinch Finals Spot

The twelfth match of the VB Series, between Sri Lanka and South Africa, got underway at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval this afternoon.

Upon winning the toss, Sri Lanka’s Marvan Atapattu chose to bat first. As this was very much a do-or-die game for both teams (South Africa were on twelve points to Sri Lanka’s nine going into this final preliminary match) the mood was tense in the field, but from ball one luck fell Sri Lanka’s way, Atapattu, who had pushed himself up the order for the first time in the series, led from the front as he and the veteran’s veteran Sanath Jayasuriya put on 52 at just under a run-a-ball (including 32 runs from three Dale Steyn overs) until Sanath had his stumps arranged by South Africa?s own veteran, the evergreen Shaun Pollock.

From here on until the 35th over things went smoothly for the Lankans, as Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara guided them to 1/175. However, promising all-rounder Johannes van der Wath ripped through both of them, removing Sangakkara first (for 62, 77 balls with five fours), and then Atapattu (80 from 112 balls, five fours) as Sri Lanka stalled at 3/190 after their rapid ascent.

South African all-rounder Andrew Hall returned to the attack and literally tore the Lankans to pieces, like he had during their ill-fated run-chase earlier in the series. Jayawardene, Mubarak, Kapugedera, Vaas, Muralitharan and Dilshan fell in the final nine overs, completing a mammoth collapse of 8/79. It was Hall who did the majority of the damage, taking 3/50 and removing Jayawardene, Mubarak and Dilshan in quick succession. Of the final Sri Lankan batsman, only Dilshan made any impact (30 from 24 balls, two fours and a six) as Hall and van der Wath were ably supported by Charl Langeveldt (2/47) and the over-depleting spin of Johan Botha (1/25, subbed on for the disappointing Steyn) and Graeme Smith (0/19). The Lankans struggled to 257.

In complete contrast to the Sri Lankans, the South Africans didn’t have the best start. As a matter of fact, they could scarcely of hoped for anything worse. Dippenaar swung and missed at a Chaminda Vaas delivery; struck plumb in front, he was gone for just nine. Herschelle Gibbs was next to go, lobbing a return back to Vaas for his second wicket.

There was a mini fightback between captain Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher (who is finally being given a run up the order) in which they took their team from 2/19 to the somewhat less-dubious 2/77 before Boucher was bowled by the quick Dilhara Fernando.

Smith was next to go, his best knock of the summer ending on 67 (76 balls, five fours) when he mis-hit Malinga Bandara to Murli (4/113). Kemp didn’t last long, and after the batsmen crossed back he was instantly rapped on the pads by Bandara (5/114).

Soon it was all over. Three of the final five batsmen could only offer brief cameos (Pollock, Hall and Botha all scored double figures but less than twenty). Dilshan took the final wicket of Langeveldt, completing the rot as the South Africans were bowled out for 181.

Graeme Smith’s men had succumbed to the pressure of Bandara, who bowled brilliantly and finished with figures of 4/31. They lost by 76 runs, and have missed out on making the VB Series finals.

Tom Moody’s boys, who had been given a frightful hammering by the Australians in their first game, lived to fight on.

They have sent a powerful message out to anyone who doubted them after their slaughtering by New Zealand: don’t underestimate us.

But the true test awaits. Can the Sri Lankans penetrate Fortress Australia? Here’s hoping for an exiting finals series.

Sri Lanka 257/9
M Atapattu 80, K Sangakkara 62, T Dilshan 30
A Hall 3/50, J van der Wath 2/41, C Langeveldt 2/47

Sri Lanka won by 76 runs

South Africa 181
G Smith 67, M Boucher 24, A Prince 22
M Bandara 4/31, C Vass 2/17

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