Sri Lanka’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 ambitions were teetering after South Africa cruised to a morale-boosting nine-wicket win.
Dimuth Karunaratne’s men headed to The Riverside Durham on Friday, 28 June, buoyed by victory over hosts England at Headingley, but ran into an inspired Dwaine Pretorius, who – playing for the first time since going wicketless in the competition curtain-raiser – snared three scalps.
The batting side, having initially recovered from losing skipper Karunaratne to the game’s first ball after being asked to bat, were behind from that point forward and posted a disappointing 203 all out.That didn’t prove any challenge for the Proteas, Hasmim Amla (80*) and Faf du Plessis (96*) combining in a 175-run stand to the knock the runs off with ease and leave Sri Lanka needing to win their final two games to have any chance of progressing.
Immediate justification of Faf du Plessis’ decision to bowl came when Kagiso Rabada squared up Karunaratne off the opening delivery, the ball finding the edge to give du Plessis a simple catch at slip.
Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando briefly sparkled in response, locating the boundary with some glorious strokes – only for Pretorius’ introduction to change the course of the game.
The seamer had Fernando caught at mid-on and bowled Perera via an inside edge, before Angelo Mathews dragged on off Chris Morris. When Kusal Mendis hit Pretorius to extra cover, Sri Lanka were suddenly 100/4.
With timing proving increasingly different on a sluggish surface, no other Sri Lanka batsmen was able to flourish as South Africa’s bowlers took command; Pretorius claimed 3/25, Morris 3/46 and Rabada 2/36.
The most significant drama towards the end of the first innings was the players being forced to the ground amid bees swarming the field, and it seemed a sting could have been in the tail when Lasith Malinga castled de Kock with a toe-crunching yorker early in the reply.
Yet Amla brought his usual calm thereafter, unfurling some glorious drives amid steady accumulation. Du Plessis provided able support, before opening his shoulders after passing 50 to deliver some early-evening entertainment for the near-capacity crowd.
It all added up to a comfortable day’s work for South Africa, who are already eliminated, to leave Sri Lanka's fate looking perilous.