South Africa beat Sri Lanka by a convincing 96 runs today at the Kennington Oval in London today in their opening match of the Champions Trophy 2017. Their victory was driven by fine performances by veterans Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir. With this opening win, the Proteas have positioned themselves well to qualify for the semi-finals, while the task has been made that much harder for Sri Lanka.
Set a target off 300 in 50 overs, Sri Lanka got off to as good a start as it could get, with openers getting off to a brisk start. At the end of ten overs, Sri Lanka were 87 for 1 and well on their way to the target. However, the change in bowling brought much needed luck to the bowling effort. Morne Morkel, not assured of a spot in the squad, dismissed the dangerous Dickwella (who scored 41 off 33 and looked set for more). de Villiers was responsible for two of the next dismissals, pulling of a blinder to send the promising Kusal Mendis packing, and then an excellent throw to dismiss Dinesh Chandimal. Chandimal had, ironically, caught de Villiers stunningly earlier in the match.
The introduction of Tahir was the turning point of the innings. Two balls after Chandimal fell to a run out, Tahir’s wrong one tricked Chamara Kapugedera who bagged a golden duck to leave his side reeling at 117 for 4. The sudden collapse at the other end put pressure on Upul Tharanga, skipper for the day after Angelo Matthews failed a late fitness test, and he holed out to David Miller off Tahir’s googly, ending a good innings of 57 off 69 deliveries, and perhaps Sri Lankan hopes of a fightback. Gunaratne fell to Tahir, getting 4 off 13 deliveries, and the slowing run chase put pressure on the inexperienced lower order. IPL sensation Kagiso Rabada, after a forgettable opening spell, was back to claim Malinga’a wicket, and Tahir finished the formalities in the 42nd over by dismissing Nuwan Pradeep to claim a 4-fer and bring the curtains down on the match.
Earlier in the day, it was the typical routine of a century and a late collapse for the South Africans, as veteran batsman Hashim Amla became the first South African player to get 25 centuries in ODI cricket. Amla put on 145 runs for a record second wicket stand with Faf du Plessis, who himself played a fine knock of 75 runs. South Africa were cruising at one stage and looked set to put on a total well in excess of the 300 mark, but quick wickets resulted in a shift of gears and South Africa, who breached the 200-run mark in the 36th over, barely made their way to 250 by the 45th. Morris’s quickfire 45-run partnership with JP Duminy in 5.2 overs set them up for a fighting total, that seemed tad short at the halfway mark but eventually proved sufficient.