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The Electronic Telegraph South Africa v Sri Lanka, Group A
Mark Nicholas - 19 May 1999

Sri Lanka blown apart by force of South Africa

South Africa (199-9) bt Sri Lanka (110) by 89 runs

The County Ground at Northampton celebrated its elevation to international status by hosting a performance of stunning power and conviction by the South Africans. Resisting a string of abuse from Lady Luck, who was unable in the end to do much about Sri Lanka's shortcomings, the increasingly potent favourites for the tournament gave a vivid demonstration of the character which drives so much of their country's sporting success.

These are hard men who get going when hard men should, the sort of men you would want in the trenches, men whose trust in each other and in their own ability creates the marvellous teamwork on which they pride themselves. Sri Lanka were blown away by this irresistible force. They did not do much wrong, they were just mown down.

Jacques Kallis of South Africa celebrates as Attapattu of Sri Lanka leaves the field

Having lost the toss and been asked to bat, South Africa quickly located the mire. Herschelle Gibbs was adjudged caught at the wicket from an unworthy waft - not out, we thought. Gary Kirsten played on to his stumps and Mark Boucher, pushing out in hope, missed a good break-back - 24 for three.

Chaminda Vaas rediscovered the late, darting curve which was once his trademark and allied it to an immaculate length. Classy support for Vaas came with an improved showing by Pramodya Wickremasinghe and from Muttiah Muralitharan.

It was the introduction of Muralitharan which indirectly accounted for Hansie Cronje. Cronje loves spin and straight away he tucked into Murali with his favourite slog/sweep to leg. Momentarily, the South African captain forgot that an Australian, Trevor Chappell, has been working on the Sri Lankans' fielding and a wonderfully athletic swoop, pick up and throw from the boundary by Mahela Jayawardene caught Cronje a yard from safety.

Now for the controversy. Shaun Pollock drove firmly into the foot of Arjuna Ranatunga at silly point and the rebounding ball was caught by the bowler. The appeal seemed adventurous, TV replays appeared to show the ball hitting the ground before the boot - not out, we thought. On your bike, Mr Pollock, thought the third umpire.

Minutes later Daryll Cullinan, whose intelligent batting had given South Africa at least a glimmer, hit high down the ground and watched, heart in mouth, while Vaas stuttered backwards, clung on expertly to the catch a yard inside the boundary before throwing the ball back into play as he fell over the rope. He cannot have been in control of the ball otherwise he would not have thrown it away in panic. It was a terrific effort and should have saved a six. Instead the third umpire ruled this one out, too.

Good grief, you should have seen the way in which Lance Klusener took it to heart. In a sizzler of a 45-ball match-winning knock, he pumped the Sri Lankan bowling all over the old ground. The climax had the full house gasping for breath: 4, 2, 6, 6, off consecutive balls to end the South African innings and allow them to ask the Sri Lankan batsmen some nasty questions which we quickly discovered were way beyond them.

Pollock and Jacques Kallis came steaming in, set on retribution. Pollock was metronomically straight, Kallis was genuinely fast and swung the ball huge distances. Romesh Kaluwitharana pulled defiantly for four before next ball edging a drive to slip; Sanath Jayasuriya lost his middle stump; Marvan Atapattu was caught flat footed and Aravinda de Silva shuffled in front of all three - 14 for four, job done, game all but over.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk