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South Africa v Sri Lanca, Group A
Sa'adi Thawfeeq - 19 May 1999

Lose to South Africa by 89 runs

Spinless batting display by Sri Lanka

Northampton, Wednesday - It seems that batting which won Sri Lanka the World Cup three years ago has become its nemesis. For the second successive match it was the batting that contributed to the team's defeat.

Today at the county ground here, Sri Lanka put up a spineless display of batting to be bowled out for 110 and lost a vital Group 'A' match to South Africa by 89 runs.

The defeat was Sri Lanka's second in the tournament and left them with the task of winning their remaining three matches in the group against Zimbabwe, India and Kenya to have any chance of qualifying for the Super Six. They lost to England on Friday by eight wickets.

The disappointing batting performance totally undid Sri Lanka's excellent work on the field when they restricted South Africa's powerful batting line-up to a total of 199 for 9 in 50 overs.

Unlike in the opening match against England, there was no excuses for Sri Lanka's dismal batting display. The conditions were ideal for batting with the exception of perhaps the movement of the ball which was always there throughout the match. It was the reason that none of the top order batsmen put up a substantial total - Darryl Cullinan's 49 off 83 balls being the highest.

Sri Lanka were better off when they had South Africa struggling at 122 for 8 in the 35th over. But Lance Klusener ensured the tournament favourites did not leave the defending champions too small a target to chase. He took charge of the bowling and collared it all over to raise South Africa's total by a further 77 runs in the last 15 overs. Klusener's contribution in that effort was a 44-ball half-century which included two sixes and five fours. He clobbered Chaminda Vaas for 22 off the final over and reached his fifty with a six off the last ball.

Klusener later came back to torment Sri Lanka further by grabbing the last three wickets for 21 runs and take the - Man of the Match award.

When the situation demanded sensible batting, Sri Lanka made the grave error of promoting Romesh Kaluwithrana to open with Sanath Jayasuriya, instead of retaining Roshan Mahanama in the spot. The combination proved disastrous as Sri Lanka slumped to 14 for 4 in the seventh over, and never recovered after that. Jacques Kallis's swinging fast-medium deliveries proved too much for them and poor shot selection too contributed towards the cause.

The only batsmen who made any impact if that is the word to be used in the depressing circumstances was Roshan Mahanama, who top scored with 36 off 71 balls batting at no. 5 and young Mahela Jayawardene, who hit a plucky 22 off 32 balls with four fours. The rest of the batting failed to reach double figures.

The onus was on the batsmen when the bowlers put on a magnificent performance in restricting South Africa to a total of 199 for 9 wickets off 50 overs after Arjuna Ranatunga won a vital toss and decided to field first.

How brilliantly did Chaminda Vaas and Pramodya Wickremasinghe bowl. The manner in which the Sri Lankans threw themselves about the field was very much akin to the standard of fielding they set when they won the World Cup three years ago.

Things did not go Sri Lanka's way in the initial overs, when South Africa raced to 22 without loss off the first 21 balls with left-hander Gary Kirsten slamming Wickremasinghe for three consecutive fours in one over. But in the fourth over, Vaas had Kirsten playing onto a delivery that nipped back to bowl him for 14. Vaas struck again in his next over when Herschelle Gibbs was given out caught behind by umpire Steve Bucknor for five. South Africa lost pinch-hitter Mark Boucher for one without any addition to the total of 24 when Wickremasinghe too got into the act of taking wickets by bowling him through the gate.

When South Africa tried to consolidate through Jacques Kallis and Darryl Cullinan who added 29 runs, Wickremasinghe again broke through by having Kallis caught superbly by Roshan Mahanama at second slip. It was a big wicket for Sri Lanka for Kallis was the danger man. He was beaten thrice in the over by Wickremasinghe before committing himself to an edge.

The brilliance of Sri Lanka on the field was demonstrated by the run out of the South African captain Hansie Cronje for eight to make them 69 for 5 in the 21st over. Cronje swept off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan to long leg and set off for two, but Jayewardene's return from the boundary to wicket-keeper Kaluwitharana left the South African captain inches out of his crease.

Jonty Rhodes and Cullinan added 34 for the sixth wicket, until the former attempted a sweep off Muralitharan and top edged an easy catch to Jayasuriya fielding at backward square leg. Rhodes made 17.

Shaun Pollock could consider himself to be unlucky when he was given out by third umpire Ken Palmer. He drove at Muralitharan and the ball appeared to ricochete off Ranatunga's boot at silly point to Muralitharan who held the catch and appealed. TV replays however showed the Pollock hitting the ball onto the ground. The decision was given after a long delay and after several replays.

Cullinan left soon afterwards to another third umpire decision. He lofted Muralitharan to long-off where Vaas took the catch and got rid of the ball immediately as he went over the boundary line. The question was whether Vaas was in control of the ball before he got rid of it. In the opinion of the third umpire he did. Cullinan was dismissed one short of his half-century hitting four fours in his 82-ball stay at the crease.

At 122 for 8 in the 35th over, things didn't look too good for South Africa. But Lance Klusesner and Steve Elworthy who replaced spinner Nicky Boje in the only change for South Africa from their game against India, plundered some runs off the spinners to add 44 off 11 overs for the ninth wicket which turned out to be the best of the innings.

Their resistance was broken when Ranatunga brought Vaas on for his third spell and he obliged by having Elworthy caught behind for 23 made off 40 balls.

After the intial burst by Vaas and Wickremasinghe, Muralitharan throttled the South African middle order to finish with the best figures of 3 for 25 off 10 overs. Vaas too finished with three wickets, but his figures of 44 runs were spoilt by Klusener's last over onslaught.

Sri Lanka made two changes bringing in Jayewardene and Chandana for Tillekeratne and Upashantha.

The only sour note of the morning came when a plane carrying the banner ``Killing Tamils is not cricket'' was flown around the ground when Sri Lanka were fielding and another reading ``South Africa - we Tamils support you'' went the rounds when Sri Lanka were batting.

Source: The Daily News