Imran Tahir leads the African bowling line up as Lankans missed an opportunity to give farewell to 2 of its great cricketers. It was a big stage. It was the World Cup. A knockout game and pressure was immense. But, South Africa came prepared. They played like the best team in the competition. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, did what South Africa did over the years: they choked. Sri Lankan team won the toss and after that, it was all about the Proteas.
Abbott was given the new ball and he was right on the money. Though he got only one wicket, that of Tillakratne Dilshan, he kept a check on the Sri Lankan batsmen and put pressure on them with this pace and bounce. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel got the benefit of that.
Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were top-class and if they can bowl as well as that for the remainder of the tournament then South Africa represent a very real chance to lift the World Cup.
The quality of South Africa’s new ball bowling and the fact they got early wickets meant the spinners were able to operate with all the pressure on Sri Lanka’s batsmen, as those batsmen were not able to be as expansive as they would have wanted to be had there been wickets in hand and a good platform laid.
But, I was shocked at how poorly the batsmen coped with Imran Tahir and JP Duminy. To lose seven wickets to that pair in those conditions was just wrong and the players will know that.
There is something about Kumar Sangakkara that fans around the world know that he will score. After four consecutive tons, he could have got another one under his belt. After the opening blows, Sri Lanka needed to rebuild. Sangakkara and Thiramanne did the job for them but the former didn’t get going, at any point in the game. He opened his account after facing 15 balls, was on 5 off 41 and was finally out for 46 off 96 balls. Had Sangakkara accelerated along with Thiramanne, the pressure would not have crept up. But it did and Sri Lanka failed to perform under pressure.
JP Duminy surprised everyone taking a hat-trick that too against a team that plays spin very well.
Quinton de Kock picked the perfect game to return to form. First the catch upfront and then the fifty in the chase. Hashim Amla just had a game and it is a good news for South Africa that De Kock stepped up and carried the team home. He played his shots, punished the bad balls and survived the good balls.
The target gave no chance to Lankan bowlers whatsover and the match wrapped up pretty quickly. With this 2 great cricket careers ended for Sri Lanka, Mahela Jayawardhane and Kumar Sangakara played their last ODI… Sangakara will continue to play Test matches.
As AB de Villiers keep on saying these days that “We Will Not Choke”, the team seems to learn. Chokers tag is off the proteas now.