SA win when it doesn't matter against Sri Lanka
South Africa saved their best performance of the World Cup for when it no longer mattered at the Riverside yesterday.
Having shambled through five losses and garnered a single success in their first seven games, Faf du Plessis’ team turned on the charm with bat and ball against Sri Lanka.
Dwaine Pretorius’ 3/25 was the sharp end of an efficient demolition of the Lankans for 203.
Then Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis shared their team’s biggest stand of the tournament to take South Africa to 206/1 with 12.4 overs to spare.
The result meant Sri Lanka, who have won only three of their seven games, have veered perilously close to being eliminated from the race for the final four.
Amla made 80 not out and Du Plessis an undefeated 96, and they put on 175 for the second wicket, only South Africa’s second century stand of the World Cup.
It all looked so easy for a team who struggled to put an authoritative performance together when they were still in the running for the semi-finals.
So easy that Hashim Amla seemed willing to give up the fight when he was given out leg-before to leg spinner Jeevan Mendis in the 31st over.
At Du Plessis’ insistence, the decision was referred — and Amla had almost reached the boundary on his way back to the dressingroom when replays showed the delivery had pitched outside leg stump.
Both Amla and Du Plessis were 68 not out at the time. That’s a significant fact, because Quinton de Kock’s efforts of 68 against England and Afghanistan were South Africa’s highest innings in the tournament before yesterday’s match.
Kagiso Rabada put South Africa on top immediately when Dimuth Karunaratne seemed to lose sight of the first delivery of the match and sent a simple catch looping to Du Plessis at second slip.
The Lankans gained stability in a sturdy second-wicket partnership between Kusal Perrera and Avishka Fernando.
But only until the 10th over, when Fernando skied Pretorius to mid-off to end the stand at 67.
That prompted a stream of nine wickets for 136 runs.
Chris Morris took 3/46 and Rabada 2/36, his best showing in a disappointing tournament.
JP Duminy — who will retire after the tournament — cleanbowled a reverse-sweeping Dhananjaya de Silva with his first ball of the match.
Quinton de Kock was on the receiving end of Lasith Malinga’s yorker in the fifth over, but that Sri Lanka’s sole reason to celebrate.
Amla, faced 105 balls and hit five fours, and Du Plessis, who had 10 fours and a six and was there for 103 deliveries, batted flawlessly to take South Africa home.
Now they have more than a week to wonder what might have been had they played like this more often before their last match, against Australia at Old Trafford next Saturday.