Sri Lanka overhaul an imposing total of 263
Sri Lanka 265 for 7 (Gunawardene 51, Atapattu 64) beat South Africa 263 for 9 (Kallis 74, Boucher 58, Vaas 4-33) by 3 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Tillakaratne Dilshan held his nerve with a priceless unbeaten 38 from 36 balls, and Kaushal Lokuarachchi wrapped up the match with a glorious leg-side flick for six, as Sri Lanka surged to a thrilling three-wicket victory in the opening game of this five-match one-day series in Colombo.
South Africa had set a stiff target of 264 after Jacques Kallis, the surprise No. 3 as the coach Eric Simons unveiled his new strategy for the series, scored a muscular and aggressive 74. A rejigged middle order, led by Mark Boucher with a brisk 58, also chipped in, and South Africa looked likely winners after that. Only one team - India against a pop-gun English attack in the Champions Trophy in 2002, when Virender Sehwag went ballistic - had successfully chased down a larger total in the previous 68 one-dayers at the Premadasa Stadium, so history offered little hope for Sri Lanka. But, crucially, South Africa had selected just the one specialist spinner.
Sri Lanka tried to set off positively, but Avishka Gunawardene's swishes missed more frequently that they connected, and Sanath Jayasuriya was not his normal rumbustious self. Eventually Alan Dawson, playing his first international of the tour, bowled Jayasuriya for 12 as he tried to spank an off-stump yorker square to the fence (29 for 1).
Gunawardene eventually started to settle, and put on 66 from 77 balls with Marvan Atapattu and clubbing seven fours in his 51. Atapattu, meanwhile, scored freely through the covers and also square-cut exquisitely, as Sri Lanka kept themselves close to the required rate.
But Makhaya Ntini, called into the attack after a five-over burst from Dawson, broke through soon after Gunawardene passed 50. He had already been clonked on the helmet by the slippery Ntini, and was caught at point off the leading edge after an attempted flick to leg (95 for 2). That wicket temporarily put the brakes on, but Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara (24) were soon flowing again, putting on 51.
The lack of variation in South Africa's attack was proving costly as Sangakkara lofted a straight six off Nicky Boje, but then he gave it away, shuffling down the track and chipping loosely to midwicket (146 for 3). Sri Lanka were still on target, needing 104 from the last 20 overs, but when Ntini had Atapattu caught behind in the 34th over for a cultured 64 the game was wide open again at 170 for 4.
The match started to tilt South Africa's way when Mahela Jayawardene (19) nibbled at a seaming delivery from Lance Klusener and was caught behind (201 for 5), then Upul Chandana, keen to pinch a quick single but sent back by Dilshan, was run out by a direct hit from Boje (211 for 6).
The pressure snowballed in the final overs, although Dilshan and Chaminda Vaas added 33 from 39 balls before Vaas hoisted a catch into the deep with 20 required from 20 balls. Dilshan, though, kept his cool and in the penultimate over Sri Lanka went for the kill, flogging Pollock for 14 runs in the over to seal victory.
In the afternoon, Kallis had come to the crease at the end of the fifth over after a 21-minute duck from Herschelle Gibbs, who must be wondering just why he worked so tirelessly to regain full fitness after injuring his ankle. Gibbs survived an early close appeal for lbw off Chaminda Vaas, but Gamini Silva raised his finger for the second, which might just have clipped his off stump.
At that stage South Africa were dawdling in the intense heat. But Kallis immediately signalled his positive intentions by dancing down the track to Nuwan Zoysa and blasting through the covers. Graeme Smith also grew more enterprising, keeping pace with Kallis, and the runs started to flow more easily.
Marvan Atapattu, presented with an unexpected problem, rotated his bowlers. In fact, he chopped and changed so much that six bowlers were used in the first 15 overs. The pinch-hitting pioneers were taking a dose of their own medicine as 73 runs were plundered between the fifth and 15th overs.
But Atapattu's string-pulling eventually produced the breakthrough as Kaushal Lokuarachchi, drafted in as Murali's replacement - the only change from the Asia Cup final team - bowled Smith with a legbreak that spun back through a gaping gate, as he tried to drive, to hit the top of off (90 for 2).
Jacques Rudolph came to the crease and soon enjoyed a large slice of good fortune as Upul Chandana, usually Sri Lanka's most athletic and dependable fieldsman, fumbled a two-handed diving chance at mid-off. Kallis had already been dropped off Lokuarachchi, when on 33, as Kumar Sangakkara failed to hold on to a thick edge off a swirling cover-drive.
But Chandana made up for that rare fielding lapse with a crucial double strike. First, Rudolph was stumped for 22 after charging out of his crease and trying to launch him over extra cover. Then, crucially, Kallis was rightly adjudged to have been caught and bowled after Chandana, the only fieldsman to appeal, successfully persuaded Gamini Silva to call up the third umpire (157 for 4).
Shaun Pollock, promoted to the No. 5 position as South Africa tried to utilise the firepower that had previously been wasted in the lower order, kept the momentum of the innings, knocking up a brisk 30, and adding 52 in 58 balls with Mark Boucher. South Africa reached the 40th over on 193 for 4, before Pollock was bowled aiming a huge blow.
In the end, Sri Lanka will have been pleased to restrict South Africa to 263. Had Boucher and Lance Klusener really teed off in the final slog overs then it could have been curtains. But Vaas returned to have Boucher caught at long-on for 58, and then bowled Klusener off his pads in the penultimate over for 15. When J-P Duminy, making his debut, was trapped in front for 4, Vaas finished with 4 for 33 from seven overs. It made all the difference in the end.