Sri Lanka wins, but only just

2012-01-23 10:08

Sri Lanka 314/8 (Kumar Sangakarra 102, Lahiru Thirimanne 69) beat South Africa 312/4 (AB de Villiers 125*, Graeme Smith 125) by two wickets

Sri Lanka made heavy weather of what looked like an easy chase when they beat South Africa by two wickets in the fifth one-day international at Bidvest Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg yesterday.

The visitors contrived to lose four wickets for 14 runs before Sachithra Senanayake sealed the deal with a six off the penultimate delivery.

South Africa won the series 3-2.

Sri Lanka’s chase was superbly anchored by Kumar Sangakarra, whose 102 off 97 balls was interspersed with deft flicks and drives along with pulls.

He was ably supported by his captain Tillakaratne Dilshan (41) and Lahiru Thirimanne (69).

The visitors started their chase briskly, with Dilshan and Upul Tharanga (46) putting on 57 in seven overs before a passing shower brought proceedings to a halt.

The onslaught continued until Tharanga gifted JP Duminy (2/44) an excellent catch after miscuing a lofted drive off Lonwabo Tsotsobe (2/54).

The normally explosive Dilshan was content to rotate the strike until he feathered a short ball to captain AB de Villiers.

Dinesh Chandimal cracked a boundary in his 20 runs off 35 balls before he was caught by De Villiers off Wayne Parnell trying to uppercut one that was too close to him.

Sangakarra combined with Thirimanne for a 100-run stand which seemed to sap the life out of the South African bowlers.

Sangakarra, who had a quiet one-day international series, holed out to Peterson at deep long-on just after he reached his century.

Angelo Mathews followed soon after him for six.

Mathews’ dismissal signalled the start of the mini-collapse where the Sri Lankan batsmen looked to finish the game in a blaze of glory even though they were ahead of the eight-ball.

Thisara Perera holed out to Faf du Plessis at deep midwicket. Nuwan Kulasekara was bowled trying to loft Peterson (2/38) out of the ground and Thirimanne was caught at short third man trying to do the same.

After being put in by Dilshan, the visitors scored an early breakthrough when Alviro Petersen guided a Lasith Malinga delivery to Angelo Mathews at second slip.

Du Plessis, along with Graeme Smith, who chiselled out a face-saving 125 off 143 balls, his ninth in one-day international’s and his first in 26 matches, backdating to the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy, set about rebuilding the innings.

Sri Lanka’s bowling maintained tight lines and lengths, denying the hosts easy scoring opportunities.

Du Plessis managed to cream two boundaries in his 24 off 36 balls before holing out to Mathews at long-on off Senanayake.

While the screws were tightened, De Villiers and Smith resorted to old-fashioned accumulation, picking off the singles and twos, reaching the halfway mark at 103/2.

While not being the aggressor, Smith raised his 50 off 81 balls, while De Villiers raised his in 47.

Accumulation then turned into acceleration when the duo ransacked 44 runs from the batting powerplay, taken in the 31st over.

The Sri Lankan bowling wilted in the face of some smart placements interspersed with cleanly-hit fours and sixes.

Malinga ended with messy figures of 1/79 in his 10 overs, while Kulasekara returned a tidy 0/46 in his 10 overs.

Smith needed only 48 balls for his second 50 before he gifted Malinga his wicket. De Villiers smeared Malinga over midwicket for six to register his 12th one-day international century.

Big-hitter Albie Morkel came and went, but De Villiers made sure his work would not be wasted.

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