South Africa, which has already been eliminated, dealt a major blow to Sri Lanka’s semi-final Cricket World Cup hopes with a dominant nine-wicket win on Saturday at the Riverside (AEST).
Sri Lanka was just two points behind fourth-placed England with a match in hand coming into this clash, yet they were totally overtaken as Hashim Amla (80 not out) and Faf du Plessis (96 no) had eaten up a paltry target of 204.
After captain Dimuth Karunaratne fell to Kagiso Rabada from the first ball of the game, the 1996 champions had recovered to 67-1, but they were rapidly reined back in.
Dwaine Pretorius critically broke the 57-ball partnership between Avishka Fernando (30) and Kusal Perera (30), who then took 3-25 as the South African bowlers took control. Lasith Malinga went to Quinton de Kock with an early trademark yorker, but Amla then sauntered to half a century and Du Plessis shortly followed.
Amla even bizarrely survived an LBW call when he reviewed and walked, only to retreat when tracking showed that the ball was pitching outside leg, summing up a miserable day for Sri Lanka. The partnership stayed unbroken on 175 with more than 12 overs remaining as South Africa reached 206-1.
Sri Lanka faces West Indies and then India to close the first round, but now England, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are all pulling clear ahead.
South Africa at least recovered some pride with a good bowling show with just one victory to their name coming into this game. Pretorious was the star man, getting Fernando in time and then removing Kusal Mendis in a wicket-maiden. His team-mates also contributed, though Chris Morris picked up 3-46 and JP Duminy took a wicket with his first ball as Rabada stayed economical.
If fans of the Sri Lankan team felt a little low in the midst of their batting display, they at least did not sink as far as the players. As a swarm of bees interrupted play late in the first innings, both teams were comically left lying prone on the Riverside pitch.
With a match in hand over the other three teams battling for the fourth position and facing an out-of-sorts South Africa side, a semi-final place was still realistic for Sri Lanka coming into this one. That may not be the case anymore. They batted badly but in a dismal showing, they also provided little resistance with the ball.