November 29, 2002

Rampant South Africa overwhelm Sri Lanka at Centurion

South Africa's pre-World Cup form continues to snowball as they overwhelmed Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park on Friday night to take a two-nil lead in the five-match series.

The South Africans scored a mammoth 317 for six - a record score against the Sri Lankans - after half centuries from Graeme Smith (99), Boeta Dippenaar (89) and Jacques Kallis (53).

Sanath Jayasuriya briefly threatened a remarkable match-winning innings with a spectacular early over assault, thrashing 46 from 32 balls, including two square cuts that sailed over the grassy banks that line this stadium.

With Jayasuriya crashing 21 runs from Makhaya Ntini's fourth over, the Sri Lankans passed 50 in just 49 balls, silencing a partisan 15,000 strong crowd.

But Sri Lanka's desperate chase came to a juddering halt when three wickets fell in the space of just 13 deliveries.

Marvan Atapattu (4) top edged a pull, Jayasuriya lost his middle stump as he charged down the wicket and Kumar Sangakkara (10) was caught in the covers for the second consecutive game.

The middle order kept up the run rate for a while but the Mexican Wave that swirled its way around the ground may as well have been a Victory Wave - Sri Lanka were never going to sustain the momentum.

The visitors were eventually bowled for 140 in 33.2 overs - the second time in three days that they have failed to pass 200 - to hand South Africa a massive 177 run victory.

Unlike at Wanderers, Sri Lanka could find no fault with the pitch - the SuperSport surface was a fine batting strip, ideal for strokeplay and limited overs cricket.

Sri Lanka's problem was that their bowlers could not contain a rampant South Africa top order that built up momentum steadily throughout the afternoon.

Sri Lanka had started well enough, restricting openers Herschelle Gibbs (16) and Graeme Smith with a disciplined new ball display, but, ironically, the fall of Gibbs - clean bowled as he charged Pulasthi Gunaratne - changed the tempo of the innings.

Nicky Boje scored 28 from 34 balls in a 47 run partnership for second wicket, taking the pressure off Smith who took his time to establish himself at the crease.

But even when Boje lifted a catch into the deep, Sri Lanka were still in the game with the South Africans on 67 for two after 15.1 overs.

However, the left-handed Smith and right-handed Dippenaar, both of whom were under pressure to cement their places in the World Cup squad, calmly laid the foundations for South Africa's formidable total.

As Jayasuriya - whose captaincy was as frenetic as his batting was spectacular - tried to rush through the overs of his part-time bowlers the pair milked runs easily, scoring 103 runs between the 20th and 35th over of the innings.

Smith - a powerful and uncomplicated left-hander - looked destined to score his maiden one-day hundred but was run out for 99 as he tried to scramble the last run to mid-wicket ending a 134 run partnership.

With so many free-hitting batsmen lurking in the South Africa top order it was a surprise to see Kallis walking out to bat at number five with only 12.1 overs remaining.

But right-hander played imperiously, taking the game away from the Sri Lankans with a series of thunderous strokes that saw him complete a fifty off just 24 balls, the second fastest ever by a South Africa.

Kallis fireworks were ended by a ricochet off a Dippenaar straight drive, who was playing his hand expertly, relying on timing and intelligence rather than brute force.

When a slower ball finally deceived him, Pollock and Jonty Rhodes, who came back into the side today after recovering from a hamstring injury, finished the innings with a flourish.

South Africa had scored 106 runs from the final ten overs.

Sri Lanka were left ruing their decision to go into the game with three frontline bowlers as they included all-rounders Upul Chandana and Hasantha Fernando for their first game of the series. The pair conceded 85 runs in 11 overs.