Dilshan, Mendis fashion big win for Sri Lanka
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:Centurion Park, Centurion
Scorecard:South Africa v Sri Lanka
Player:GC Smith, BAW Mendis, KC Sangakkara, TM Dilshan
Event:ICC Champions Trophy 2009/10

DateLine: 22nd September 2009


Tillakaratne Dilshan's pyrotechnics with the bat and the choking spin off Ajantha Mendis condemned South Africa to a 55 run loss in the opening match off the ICC Champions Trophy 2009. The world's number one team simply refused to turn up for the match as they lost to a superior team. The bowling lacked the cutting edge, the fielding wore a lazy look and more importantly they were ripped apart by Mendis whom they have not faced before. The Lankan team on the other hand looked focussed from the word go. Dilshan led the way with a stroke-filled century and he was well supported by skipper Sangakkara. Jayawardene propped up the score past the 330-run mark with some intelligent batting.


Graeme Smith won the toss and elected to bowl first on a pitch that looked dry. Dilshan and Jayasuriya attacked from the onset to put the South African opening bowlers on the back foot. Dilshan got the proceedings underway with a powerful cover-drive off Steyn and then Jayasuriya set his sights on an undercooked Parnell who offered freebies to the southpaw only to be punished through the covers for consecutive boundaries. Steyn then swung the pendulum back into South Africaís favour when he trapped Jayasuriya leg before with the one that straightened. Sangakkara joined Dilshan in the middle as the latter continued with his merry ways. The pitch showed characteristics of variable bounce but Dilshan negotiated it with quick footwork. Fierce slashes through point, powerful biffs through covers and thumping pulls through midwicket were the features of Dilshanís batting and to add to the entertainment the now familiar Ďdilscoopí made its appearance. While Dilshan offered entertainment through some unorthodox shots, Sangakkara reminded the viewers that runs can also be collected with elegant drives and delicate flicks.


Graeme Smith turned to Kallis and Morkel to put a lid on the scoring. Unfortunately for the skipper both the bowlers refused to bowl to the field as the duo erred in pitching short and wide. Dilshan racked up his fifty in just 38 balls to leave the South African team reeling from under his stunning onslaught. Dilshan celebrated his landmark with a boundary and essayed a booming pull to midwicket off a rudderless Morkel who conceded 22 runs in his two overs. At the end off the bowling Powerplay the Sri Lankan score read 112 for the loss off one wicket with no bowler able to make any sort of mark on the two batsmen. Once the bowling Powerplay was done with Smith went on the defensive with the field spread out leaving open spaces out in the field. This allowed the batsmen to work the ball into the gaps to keep the scoreboard moving with minimal risk. The run-rate which hovering at seven was brought down with the introduction of the spinners-Botha and van der Merwe. The spinners managed to exert some degree of control and more importantly they slowed down the Lankan batsmen.


Dilshan reached his third ODI century off just 87 balls with a sharp single and the roar of delight from the right-hander told what it meant to him. Sangakkara who brought up his fifty was looking good for a big score when Duminy disrupted his plans. The part-time off-spinner coaxed the Lankan captain to give him a simple return catch and Sangakkara was visibly livid with himself. The pair had added 158 in 25.4 overs to lay a strong base. Smith brought back his strike bowler Steyn and he struck in his very first ball. Dilshan played a loose upper cut of a short and wide ball straight to the throat off Morkel at third man. Jayawardene joined forces with Samaraweera to thwart further South African attempts for breakthrough as they ran the short singles and found the boundary ropes without much fuss. The scoring rate increased as Jayawardene opened up towards the end of the innings and even slammed a beautiful looking six over extra-cover off Kallis to reach a well deserved fifty. The batting Powerplay was taken in the 45th over and the first two overs from Parnell and Steyn bled 27 runs. Things were looking bleak for Smith as he was running out of options. But Parnell was able to pull things back when he claimed the wickets of Jayawardene and Samaraweera off consecutive balls. The pair had added a well-paced 116 in 17.2 overs. The deluge was plugged in the final four overs as Sri Lanka lost five wickets for 24 runs.


South Africa got off to an inauspicious start as they lost opener Amla in the third over off the innings. Smith found an able partner in Kallis as the duo first steadied the ship and then launched into the Lankan bowlers. Initially both the batsmen could not time the ball as well as they would have liked as the lack of pace of the Lankan bowlers strangulated them. Kulasekara and Mathews bowled on and around the off stump to deny Smith the freedom to score. Smith countered the move by constantly shuffling across the crease to play across the line. He found the onside boundaries forcing the Lankan bowlers to bowl further away from the off-stump to which Smith retaliated beautifully by peppering the point and cover fence.


With Kulasekara and Mathews bleeding runs Sangakkara was forced to turn to his spin-duo Muralitharan and Mendis. Smith and Kallis added 81 in 11 overs without much trouble before disaster struck them. Mendis responded to his captainís call by flattening a bemused Smithís leg stump. Smith simply failed to read a straighter one from Mendis which pitched on the leg stump and zipped through the bat and pad gap to curtail a fluent innings from Smith. The look on the South African captainís face said it all. Smith had scored 58 off 44 ball with nine hits to the fence and one six. That wicket changed the momentum of the South African innings as the runs dried up. While Muralitharan was handled with ease by Kallis and de Villiers Mendis proved to be a complex puzzle to decipher. Unable to keep abreast with the increasing run-rate Kallis tried to chip Mendis over mid-off, but the flatter trajectory prevented him from getting under the ball as he would have liked and found himself looking as Mathews plucked an astounding airborne catch. Duminy came and went as he cleaned by a flipper from Mendis off the first ball with the scoreboard reading 113 for the loss of 4 wickets.


Boucher and de Villiers battled hard to get the innings back on track but with Murali and Mendis posing some searching questions the pair never looked at ease. The agony continued when Malinga coming back for a second spell managed to extract de Villiers from the middle with a sharp bouncer. De Villiers trying to take on the bowlers could only top-edge to midwicket where Jayawardene accepted the offering to send the South African innings reeling. The Boucher-Morkel combo took up the baton to steady the rocking boat and also give some semblance of chance at chasing down the target. As the pair began to run out off overs they began to throw their bat around but were unable to get the boundaries. Boucher tried to negate the full and straight line from the Lankan bowlers by moving around his crease. Mathews got one to keep going straight, missed Boucherís intended flick to be trapped plumb before the stumps. Botha joined Morkel in the middle and the two took the batting Powerplay in the 34th over off the innings. The pair then added a quick fire 35 in 4.4 overs before Botha found Mathews at mid-off.


The heavens opened up to rain hard forcing the players and the officials to leave the ground. The South African score at that moment read at 206 for the loss off seven wickets way behind the par score which was 261. The umpires waited for the rain to relent but the weather did not permit further play and thus Sri Lanka won the match by 55 runs.


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