Malinga steals the thunder

South Africa's Charl Langeveldt and Mark Boucher celebrate the dismissal of Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene.-AP

The Sri Lankan fast bowler's late burst turned the match into one of the most nerve-wracking contests in one-day cricket history. Richard Gibson reports.

South Africa scored an extraordinary one-wicket victory over Sri Lanka at Providence Stadium after Lasith Malinga's historic feat almost instigated one of cricket's great comebacks. South Africa, the world number one, was just four runs short of its target of 210 runs when Malinga became the first bowler in international cricket to take four wickets in as many balls. With tension brewing in the middle, Robin Peterson edged a four off Malinga to hand South Africa its first points in the Super Eight.

Malinga's late burst turned the first contest at this ground into one of the most nerve-wracking in one-day cricket history and offered the possibility of a tied match — the result between the two countries at the 2003 World Cup.

With a single boundary needed, Malinga produced a ferocious yorker that rearranged Pollock's stumps. When Andrew Hall spooned the next ball to cover, panic well and truly set in. That completed the 45th over of the innings and although Jacques Kallis, who struck a determined 86, ensured he got on strike for the hat-trick ball, his audacious drive provided wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara with a low catch.

It was fairytale stuff when Makhaya Ntini was undone by another screaming yorker from Malinga that crashed into the base of the stumps. But Charl Langeveldt, whose five-wicket haul restricted Sri Lanka to 209, and Peterson crept over the line.

Cruelly it was another close affair which settled things, as Peterson edged Malinga to the third man boundary. This sent the batsman into a frenzied celebration, including the smashing down of the stumps at the bowler's end with a swing of his bat.

Such a narrow win, with 10 balls to spare, appeared almost unthinkable when South Africa was cruising at 160 for two in the 33rd over. But Muttiah Muralitharan's two wickets in as many balls to dismiss Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher, the first to a fine low return catch, checked the progress.

More fine work, this time by Sangakkara behind the stumps, accounted for Justin Kemp, who was stumped off the bowling of Sanath Jayasuriya.

Kallis responded emphatically to criticism of his go-slow style by guiding South Africa along steadily despite suffering cramp in the latter stages. Criticised heavily back in his homeland for slow scoring during South Africa's defeat to Australia, Kallis oversaw the chase with aplomb until Malinga was reintroduced to the attack for the delayed third power play.

Kallis came to the crease in the first over when Chaminda Vaas cleaned up A. B. De Villiers with a beauty that arced back into the right-hander.

Smith made use of Malinga's slingy pace in the early stages of the chase to smash three deliveries in quick succession through square-leg for four. It highlighted the touch he appears to be in since arriving for this World Cup, and he emphasised how dangerous he can be when set by blasting Vaas for a straight six on his way to a 50-ball half-century.

It took the Murali-Sangakkara act to account for him shortly afterwards.

After being asked to field first, despite early morning rain freshening up the surface, South Africa bowled an opponent out for the first time in the tournament, thanks to a late clatter of five wickets in as many overs.

The Proteas' bowling failures against minnows Scotland and the Netherlands were put into perspective as disciplined accuracy was backed up by superb fielding.

Langeveldt took a career-best five for 39, aided by three skiers being held in the 49th over.

South Africa's top scorer Jacques Kallis.-AP

Two other miscues against the new ball had provided him with the wickets of Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene as Sri Lanka made an awful start.

It took half-centuries from Tillekeratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold to rescue the 1996 World Cup winners from a position of 98 for five.

South Africa's fielders no doubt restricted the scoring, and they also effected two brilliant run-outs, the first by a horizontal Gibbs launching himself into the stumps in Jonty Rhodes fashion.

THE SCORES

Super Eight: South Africa v Sri Lanka. South Africa won by one wicket.

Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga c Kemp b Ntini 12; S. Jayasuriya c Kallis b Langeveldt 26; M. Jayawardene c De Villiers b Langeveldt 12; K. Sangakkara c Boucher b Hall 28; C. Silva (run out) 9; T. Dilshan c Kemp b Ntini 58; R. Arnold c Boucher b Langeveldt 50; F. Maharoof c Ntini b Langeveldt 5; C. Vaas c Gibbs b Langeveldt 0; L. Malinga (not out) 0; M. Muralitharan (run out) 1; Extras (lb-3, w-4, nb-1) 8. Total (in 49.3 overs) 209.

Fall of wkts: 1-13, 2-45, 3-65, 4-90, 5-98, 6-195, 7-208, 8-208, 9-208.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 8-0-46-0; Ntini 8-0-26-2; Langeveldt 10-1-39-5; Hall 9.3-0-33-1; Kallis 6-0-24-0; Peterson 5-0-22-0; Smith 3-0-16-0.

South Africa: G. Smith st. Sangakkara b Muralitharan 59; A. B. De Villiers b Vaas 0; J. Kallis c Sangakkara b Malinga 86; H. Gibbs c & b Muralitharan 31; M. Boucher lbw b Muralitharan 0; J. Kemp st. Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 5; S. Pollock b Malinga 13; A. Hall c Tharanga b Malinga 0; R. Peterson (not out) 4; M. Ntini b Malinga 0; C. Langeveldt (not out) 1; Extras (b-5, lb-4, w-3, nb-1) 13. Total (for nine wkts., in 48.2 overs) 212.

Fall of wkts: 1-1, 2-95, 3-160, 4-160, 5-182, 6-206, 7-206, 8-207, 9-207.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-1-31-1; Malinga 9.2-0-54-4; Maharoof 7-0-41-0; Muralitharan 10-0-34-3; Jayasuriya 10-0-34-1; Dilshan 2-0-9-0.

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