Tenacity pays, INDEED

PACE IS THE KEY... South Africa's Andre Nel celebrates after dismissing Marvan Atapattu.-K.R. DEEPAK

Defending a modest total, South Africa bowled and fielded exceptionally well, sending Sri Lanka crashing to defeat and out of the tournament. G. Viswanath reports.

South Africa made 219 and defended it with all its might. Graeme Smith's team regrouped at the break, gave a full view of its talent and then left the Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, on a winning note. Making amends for their mediocre performances with the willow, each and every South African in the field seemed like a giant waiting to crush his opponent. And as the South Africans raised the bar in the bowling and fielding departments, Sri Lanka wilted under pressure and crashed to defeat by 78 runs.

South Africa's victory straightaway put a question mark over Sri Lanka's chances of advancing to the semi-finals. And New Zealand's excellent victory over Pakistan at Mohali later confirmed Sri Lanka's exit from the tournament.

Sri Lanka, after putting South Africa in to bat, restricted it to a total that looked far from formidable, especially since the Islanders had the batsmen to chase down the target. All that Sri Lanka needed was a sparkling start from its openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga.

Graeme Smith's energetic players took the field realising that they had to perform exceptionally well to stay in the competition. The skipper's main weapon was Shaun Pollock, known for his clever use of the seam besides maintaining a good line and length. The fast bowler showed that he still has the energy and the enthusiasm to spearhead the South African attack.

If Sri Lanka's left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas bowled 10 impressive overs at a stretch (he conceded only 16 runs and claimed two wickets), it was now Pollock's turn to do the same as Smith tossed him the ball. Luck too smiled on Pollock at the start as umpire Daryl Harper ruled opener Sanath Jayasuriya leg before, though television replays showed that the ball had pitched outside the line of the left-hander's leg stump.

SMART WORK ... Sri Lanka'swicketkeeper Kumara Sangakkara stumps South Africa's Jacques Kallis.-PTI

South Africa gained the upper hand once Pollock dismissed Kumara Sangakkara for nought. Pollock then brought an abrupt end to Mahela Jayawardene's polished innings by running him out. It all started with a good piece of fielding by Herschelle Gibbs, who brilliantly stopped a shot from Dilshan at backward point. He then threw the ball to the non-striker's end where Pollock, backing up for the throw, dived and fired at the stumps.

Pace bowler Andre Nel beat Marvan Atapattu with pace and cut and then dismissed Dilshan and Malinga. Unable to withstand the pressure Sri Lanka folded up for 141.

"It was still a good wicket to chase. The dew made it difficult for the bowlers to grip the ball. We always knew that 220-230 was a good total and we wanted to knock a few over in the first 15 overs. There was a bit of juice for the first 10 overs and Makhaya (Ntini) and Shaun (Pollock) bowled really well and got us the important breakthroughs. After that everyone got aggressive and we kept the pressure on them till the end,'' said Smith after the match.

The South African skipper further said: "We wanted to win the first 30-35 overs of the innings because we had done a lot of homework and knew that Sri Lanka score a lot of runs during that period. It was important for us to get people like Sanath early. Makhaya and Shaun bowled really well first up and Nel continued from where they left off.''

After its batting failed against New Zealand, South Africa managed to go past 200, thanks to defiant knocks from Jacques Kallis and Abraham de Villiers. Kallis was in full control until he was beaten by a gem of a delivery from Jayasuriya. Mark Boucher, Pollock and Robin Petersen chipped in with useful contributions for South Africa.

THE SCORES

Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad, October 24.

South Africa won by 78 runs.

South Africa: G. C. Smith c Jayasuriya b Vaas 10; H. H. Dippenaar c Sangakkara b Vaas 3; H. H. Gibbs c Sangakkara b Malinga 16; J. H. Kallis st. Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 43; A. B. de Villiers c Maharoof b Muralitharan 54; M. V. Boucher b Malinga 29; J. M. Kemp b Jayasuriya 7; S. M. Pollock (not out) 21; R. J. Peterson b Malinga 22; A. Nel b Malinga 0; M. Ntini (not out) 1; Extras (b 4, lb 2, w 6, nb 1) 13. Total (for nine wkts, 50 overs) 219.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-30, 3-30, 4-110, 5-145, 6-169, 7-176, 8-218, 9-218.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-3-16-2; Malinga 9-0-53-4; Fernando 5-0-24-0; Muralitharan 10-0-42-1; Jayasuriya 10-0-36-2; Maharoof 5-0-34-0; Dilshan 1-0-8-0.

Sri Lanka: W. U. Tharanga c Boucher b Ntini 11; S. T. Jayasuriya lbw Pollock 3; M. D. Jayawardene (run out) 36; K. C. Sangakkara c Boucher b Pollock 0; M. S. Atapattu b Nel 2; T. M. Dilshan c Gibbs b Nel 36; M. F. Maharoof c Smith b Kallis 3; C. Vaas (not out) 29; S. L. Malinga c Smith b Nel 2; M. Muralitharan c Pollock b Ntini 3; R. D. Fernando lbw Kemp 4; Extras (lb 5, w 5, nb 2) 12. Total: (all out, 39.1 overs) 141.

Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-21, 3-23, 4-34, 5-78, 6-91, 7-114, 8-124, 9-127.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 10-0-21-2; Ntini 9-1-24-2; Nel 9-1-41-3; Kallis 8-0-34-1; Kemp 3.1-0-16-1.