AB De Villiers came out in the pre-match press conference and assured South Africa that the Proteas would be up for the game and they were determined to win it – he was right. Not only did they managed the victory, but they ran out and delivered their most convincing performance of the tournament thus far. Leading up to the game, the Sri Lankans focussed on the negative aspects surrounding the South African’s previous World Cup fortunes. On the contrary, AB and his side concentrated on their strengths, knowing that if the performance mirrored the belief, there would be only one winner. The tone was set early on in the game. It took just 10 balls for Kyle Abbott to make the first breakthrough. A sharp grab by Quinton De Kock, albeit taken at the second attempt, was just the start the Proteas were looking for. A huge confidence boost for Quinny himself and this showed throughout the game.
The intensity was there for all to see. Right from the outset, the Proteas looked determined to get the win. Having lost the toss, it was up to the bowlers to take charge and set the tempo for the day. They did just that, with Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott both getting the ball to move around a bit. This will be a massive positive for the players as all the talk in the press had revolved around how South Africa often struggle to chase targets. Getting off on the right foot would thus be crucial to settling the nerves and providing them with a platform from which they could dominate.
Not resting on his laurels, De Villiers kept the pressure on the Sri Lankans. Cleverly, he brought JP Duminy into the attack in the 14th over and with Kumar Sangakkara struggling to get going, JP was able to rush through four overs quickly and cheaply. Duminy was ably supported by player of the match, Imran Tahir, who has arguably been our best bowler Down Under. He got rid of Lahiru Thirimanne and then bamboozled Mahela Jayawardene, dismissing him for the fourth time in just as many innings.
On that note and with the departure of Sri Lanka from the tournament, we say goodbye to two greats of the one day game. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakara have been the backbone of the Sri Lanka middle-order for years. The pair have combined for 36 century run partnerships and both sit close to the top of total run scorers in ODI’s. Amassing over 26 000 runs between them, they will surely be regarded as two of the world’s best batsmen and have provided fans all over the world with many great memories. Even the sky managed to shed a tear for Sangakkara, as the heavens opened briefly following his dismissal.
The Proteas never let up as they continued to pile the pressure on the Lankans, eventually bundling them out for 133. By Angelo Mathews’ own admission, this was never going to be enough. After getting into early trouble, they had tried to target 250 to give their bowlers something to defend. It wasn’t to be, however, as Quinton De Kock, supported by Amla and Faf Du Plessis knocked off the runs in just 18 overs. It was a welcome return to form for the young wicketkeeper-batsman who had been struggling of late. The selectors have stuck with him and justifiably so. The knock will give him the world of confidence which he will hopefully take into the semis against either New Zealand or the West Indies.
Team selection has been a point of contention this tournament but I feel that going with seven batsmen is the right balance for the team. With this, JP understands that he will need to bowl full 10 overs. This mindset will benefit him tremendously and will give him the confidence to perform. He proved that today with his hat-trick and figures of 3/29 in nine overs. AB was tactically superb today. His fielding positions, bowling changes and player management were all on point. His belief in the team is unerring and I have no doubt that he is relishing in the responsibility. Onto Auckland we go.