A clinical all-round performance from South Africa saw them steamroll Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street and leave their opposition on the brink of crashing out of the tournament. Sri Lanka lacked intensity throughout the game and never looked to be in the game at any stage.
With nothing to gain from the match, South Africa got off to the perfect start as they got rid of Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne off the first ball of the match. But Kusal Mendis and Avishka Fernando ensured that the runs kept coming, hitting some boundaries and Sri Lanka, who had the best batting run-rate in the first Powerplay before this match (6.07), continued their good run this time too, by finishing with 67 runs on the board, but had lost a couple of wickets, including that of Fernando, who was once again looking in good touch.
When it came to the middle phase, Sri Lanka were rock bottom in the table with a run-rate of 4.12 and had lost the most wickets (28) in this phase. They once again lost the plot in the middle phase, losing Kusal Perera (30) and Angelo Mathews (11) within 22 overs. Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva had to rebuild the innings and South Africa were looking to add to their woes. As a result, Imran Tahir was brought into the attack as he had dismissed Mendis thrice in seven innings previously. The Sri Lankan batsman had a strike-rate of just 50 against Tahir. However, it was Dwaine Pretorius, playing just his second match of the tournament, who dismissed Mendis, thanks to a low catch from Chris Morris at cover-point. It was the all-rounder’s third wicket and Sri Lanka had lost half their side with just 111 on the board with 23 overs or so left in the innings.
Sri Lanka went into self-destruct mode after that as they played one rash shot after the other and in the end managed a below par total. It was a collective bowling effort from South Africa, who finally gave their fans something to cheer about after a disappointing campaign.
There was a hint of swing, but the ball was not coming onto the bat. Added to that, there was a bit of turn as well, that too, in the early stages of the chase. A brilliant yorker from Lasith Malinga saw the back of Quinton de Kock for just 15. With that wicket, Malinga’s wicket tally off a yorker went up to 5, which is the most by any bowler in this tournament.
After that, Hashim Amla, who has looked out of form this World Cup, played some delightful strokes on his way to his first half-century in eight innings. The Proteas had reached 100 in the 19th over and looked set to ease to victory. The du Plessis-Amla partnership was risk-free and the Sri Lankan bowlers too did not to anything special to get a breakthrough. It was as though they had accepted their fate and were just going through their motions. For a team, who were still in contention for a place in the semis, this was a lukewarm performance to say the least.
In the meantime, du Plessis too quite nonchalantly brought up his fifty off just 70 deliveries. Amla was wrongly given out leg before, which was overturned. Eventually Amla and du Plessis finished with an unbeaten 173-run stand, which happens to be the highest partnership for South Africa against Sri Lanka for the second wicket.
The Proteas eventually romped home to a nine-wicket victory with 76 balls to spare.
Sri Lanka now have to win their remaining two fixtures against West Indies and India and hope the other results go their way, if they are to make it to the semi-final. South Africa on the other hand, take on Australia in their final match, where they will look to give the Aussies a run for their money in a bid to walk away from the tournament with some pride.