CHESTER-LE-STREET, England (Reuters) – Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla struck unbeaten half-centuries as South Africa cruised to a nine-wicket victory at the Riverside Ground on Friday to put a major dent in Sri Lanka’s hopes of reaching the Cricket World Cup semi-finals.
After putting Sri Lanka in to bat, South Africa were set a target of 204 as seamer Dwaine Pretorius took 3-25 off 10 overs in an innings that was interrupted by a swarm of bees that invaded the pitch and sent the players and umpires to the floor.
After the early loss of Quinton de Kock, already-eliminated South Africa never looked troubled as Amla (80 not out) and Du Plessis (96 not out) put on 175 for the second wicket, playing with a kind of freedom not seen before by the team in a dismal tournament for the side.
Sri Lanka needed victory to move level with fourth-placed England in the race for semi-final places, but struggled with bat and ball against an opponent who have now beaten them in 17 of their last 19 meetings.
Sri Lanka produced a fast start to their innings that was halted by the immaculate line and length of Pretorius as South Africa limited their opponents to 203 all out three balls shy of 50 overs.
After overcoming the loss of captain Dimuth Karunaratne with the first ball of the match, Kusal Perera (30) and Avishka Fernando (30) raced to 67 inside the first 10 overs, taking the attack to the South Africans.
But Pretorius picked up both their wickets and slowed the run-rate, with seamer Chris Morris (3-46) also collecting key scalps, including that of Angelo Mathews (11).
They were aided by a slow wicket that made stroke-play difficult, but Sri Lanka’s batting woes that have characterised their campaign to date returned, with Perera and Fernando ending as top-scorers in the innings.
South Africa reached their target with 76 balls to spare in an accomplished display that comes as too little, too late for them in the World Cup.
De Kock struck three crisp fours before he was bowled by the wily Lasith Malinga (1-47), but Amla and De Kock played a patient game and nudged the ball for singles and twos, showing the composure their opponents had lacked.
Amla took 56 balls for his half-century and Du Plessis 70, but they were always ahead of the run-rate and with no pressure on to bag a quick win, took their time.
They eventually sped up when the target narrowed to under 30, but Du Plessis ran out of runs to reach a deserved captain’s ton.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)