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Friday, September 25, 2009

Sri Lanka cruise to opening win

Tillakaratne Dilshan's 106 inspired Sri Lanka to a 55-run rain-affected win over South Africa in the opening match of the Champions Trophy in Centurion.

The opener put on 158 with captain Kumar Sangakkara (54), while a brutal 77 from Mahela Jaywardene took Sri Lanka to 319-8 in their Group B game.

Graeme Smith's 58 gave the hosts a strong start, but a devastating Ajantha Mendis spell ended their victory hopes.

Mendis' 3-30 left the hosts at 206-7, well behind the Duckworth/Lewis target.

The thumping victory made a mockery of South Africa's ranking as the world's best one-day team as they were dismantled by the match-winning abilities of Mendis and Dilshan.

The result means the hosts will need to win their next match against New Zealand on Thursday to stand any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the tournament.

With Sri Lanka in total control at 70-1 after 10 overs, captain Smith must have questioned his decision to bowl first on a good batting wicket as Dilshan launched an astonishing aerial assault in the mandatory powerplay overs.

Despite losing Sanath Jayasuriya, lbw to Steyn in the third over, the opener meted out punishment to South Africa's fast bowlers, including the first "Dilscoop" of the tournament, shovelling the ball high over wicketkeeper Mark Boucher's head for four off Wayne Parnell.

Batting serenely with Sangakkara, Dilshan brought up his 17th one-day half century off just 38 deliveries.

A crunching cover drive and a fine cut allowed Dilshan to record his third one-day century in the 28th over, but he lost Sangakkara almost immediately after when he chipped a return catch to off-spinner JP Duminy.

Dilshan's epic innings was eventually brought to an end in the 30th over when a rank long-hop outside off stump from Steyn was upper cut into the hands of the relieved Albie Morkel at third man.

But an intelligent fourth-wicket partnership of 116 between ex-captain Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera gave Sri Lanka the impetus to set a daunting target of 320 under the floodlights.

"We batted very well by doing the basics properly and building partnerships," said Sangakkara.

The hosts' riposte began in the worst possible fashion when a thick inside edge off the bat of Hashim Amla dislodged his leg stump at 9-1.

But Smith and new batsman Jacques Kallis punched boundaries on both sides of the wicket, with the Proteas captain bringing up his 50 in just 40 deliveries with a deft glance for his eighth boundary.

But his innings was brought to a close when a beautiful delivery in Mendis' first over totally bamboozled him.

The spinner quickly dispatched Kallis (41) and Duminy for a golden duck, while the dismissal of AB de Villiers (24), caught top-edging and attempting to pull a Lasith Malinga short delivery, effectively ended the run chase.

"Ajantha is a big challenge for anyone playing him for the first time," Sangakkara added.

"With him, Muttiah Muralitharan and Malinga, we have a lot of unorthodox match-winners in our side."

Late hitting from Johan Botha and Morkel took South Africa beyond 200 but a heavy storm forced the game to be abandoned in the 38th over with South Africa comfortably short of their Duckworth/Lewis target of 261.

"We never got our basics right and we've got to improve very quickly," said Smith, whose side had not played an international match since the World Twenty20 semi-final in June.

"The number of extras we gave away is a problem, and we've got to think better on our feet."

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