Sri Lanka v South Africa, World T20 2012, Group C, Hambantota September 22, 2012

SL undone by 'home' conditions

Home advantage didn't play in Sri Lanka's favour as South Africa relished the conditions and their recent experience

Much of the reason Sri Lanka are deemed favourites for the World Twenty20 is because they have intimate knowledge of the conditions they will be playing in - or at least, they are supposed to. Often touring teams have been undone by Sri Lanka sides who have developed strengths that are amplified by the surfaces they play on, and opponents go home cursing conditions so foreign from their own.

But on a soggy night in Hambantota, it was South Africa that read the pitch, and the match situation, better than the home side. The heavy rain that had preceded the 7-over match cranked up the liveliness of the surface and ensured the ball would move in the air as well. Twenty20 cricket is usually not a great advertisement for length bowling, but that's where Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel stayed, knowing that on this pitch, with batsmen attacking every delivery, a little movement off the seam would be the difference between a batsman mis-hitting the ball and being clobbered to the fence. Sixteen dot-balls and seventeen singles from 42 legitimate deliveries proved them right. Sri Lanka managed only four fours in their innings.

"I thought we assessed conditions better tonight," captain AB de Villiers said after the match. "I think we were quicker on the button than them. We're enjoying the wickets - there was a bit of bounce and seam but what made us play well was the energy and intensity the bowlers had at the crease. You've got to put it in to get it out and that's what they did."

Sri Lanka meanwhile stuck with the yorkers, short balls and variations that would usually bring results in this format, missing the opportunity to exploit the spice in the pitch. Two bowlers were allowed to bowl more than one over, and Mahela Jayawardene picked Lasith Malinga, who does not seam the ball and Rangana Herath, a spinner, to perform that task. Seamers Nuwan Kulasekara and Angelo Mathews, however, had bowled two of the three cheapest overs in the innings.

Even with the bat, South Africa read the game better than their opposition. De Villiers' 13-ball 30 might have seemed like mayhem, but as he revealed afterwards, his hitting was thoughtfully borne. Malinga's slower bouncer is among the most difficult to pick in world cricket, but if you're expecting it, as de Villiers was in the sixth over, it can still be hit for six.

"I don't think that's the best ball he's ever bowled, but I knew he had a slower ball in him. He had three options with that field. It's either a slower short ball, a normal bouncer or a full yorker. And it turned out to be that slower short ball. I was expecting it and I got a bit of momentum out of the shot."

South Africa may have been aided by a familiarity with shortened matches as well. Less than two weeks ago at Edgbaston they lost an 11-overs-a-side encounter against England and that experience helped them prepare for another curtailed match half a world away.

"We had a little chat before we started because it's not easy to keep the focus with all the rain. We spoke about what we learned from England and it was fresh in our minds when we went out. I think that definitely helped.

"You can get a reduced over game at any time. It could happen in the final. We're ready for that now. It's still a short version of the game you've just got to think on your feet and be brave."

The shorter the match, the quicker teams must adapt. The rain before the cricket broke an eight-month drought in the area around the ground. The downpour may have been unexpected, but South Africa's response to it was swift and exact. With the north-east monsoon approaching, and the focus moving to wetter parts of the country, Sri Lanka will hope they've learnt the same lessons their opponents had picked up.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 25, 2012, 1:10 GMT

    Sri Lanka has looked ahead and made some of their pitches similar to those seen in England.... This is an excellent move, and, will enable SL Div-1 cricketers to recognize and adjust to differing pitches, rather than playing forever on a spinning wicket alone, at home.

    Sri Lanka will learn from these experiences, and will emerge a better equipped-side in the long run. Good learning experience for all SL cricketers, including those in rural areas.

    And please giive us a break: we didn't schedule the 20/20 world cup by ourselves: the ICC that assigned these days for the 20/20, during the monsoon, despite our input on the weather.

    Looking for a great SA-WI final.

  • Dummy4 on September 24, 2012, 14:48 GMT

    @lovelanka...shedule u followed z da correct one..but they gave a number for all top 8 teams(assuming all r in super 8).ex..SA c2 ,SL c1 it doesnt matter SL being ended up as C2 Sl still in the pallekele group. if 3rd team goes to super8 then it replace the leaving teams super8 Group.

  • Sage on September 24, 2012, 8:29 GMT

    SL couldn't just adapt to the shorter game. SL won the toss and should have battered first. Mahela made a huge mistake again. If you re watch the game, South Africans knew what to do. They posted a very good score and knew their excellent fast bowling will back them. If you observe the game plan of South Africans, They had an unorthodox field when SL was batting. They knew SL had to score again very good pace attack and had fielders around the boundary. So you could not score easily and if you force to hit harder the field set up was on the money for a catch. If you look at how Mahela got out and even Sanga was almost caught by the same fielder. Nothing came easy for SL. It's just one short match and we shouldn't be critical but I hope SL will learn from this and face the rest of the matches better otherwise SL may not go beyond Semi- Finals, which will be a real shame. I feel South Africa, India or even the West Indies are the front runners to win the T20.

  • Dummy4 on September 24, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    @Nisala Fernando u are so funny :D U guys are preparing those so called fast pitches without true bounce. Please dont compare the pitches that are being made in sl with aus or other fast pitches around the world..

    Accept that u dont have any quality spinners anymore after murli and hence the best chance fr winning is to make fast tracks so that it could help u guys in the super eights where sri lanka play against west indies, new zealand, and england and not South Africa or Australia :P If that was the case, ur batsmen can never win against the quality seam bowling attack like south africa even if its held in srilanka...

  • Uwaisul on September 24, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    @LoveLanka Sri Lanka - C1 are scheduled to play all there super 8 matches in Pallekele

  • Ravindra on September 23, 2012, 19:36 GMT

    Sag & Mahela keep LEARNING, keep PLAYING keep BLOCKING YOUNG talent of SL. T20 is not for accumulators, but keep playing at least it will satisfy some SL fans. .......REMEMBER this the best t20 batsment in SL is Kapugdara & best bowler in t20 is Ajantha Mendis

  • Asitha on September 23, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    Our SL t20 team is missing best t20 player in the country Kapugadare . Kapu is a real match winners when comes to t20, we saw last t20 wc semis. Kapugadare should play ahead of MAHELA,Sanga,Chandimal, Thirimanna etc these players cannot even clear 30 yard circle when situation demand. Raw talent is missing sineour kabbos and accumulators play all test, odi & t20 and want to bat on TOP. This wc all depend on SL bowlers Malinga & Mendis, Batsmens are real jokers except Pereara & Mathew. Sag & Mahela please bat LOWER down the order, you guys are the biggest jokers when we want quick runs against quality bowlers.

  • mark on September 23, 2012, 19:04 GMT

    what is the logic in preparing a pitch that support for your opposition and threat to your own weakness.. who will do that on earth? i dont know why this type of pitches have been made during last few matches that SL played..Malinga needs to control runs flow from his end.this is been the case for now more than one year around for Malinga, even if he takes wikets, ultimately oposition reach to thier target score, then what use of bowler, finally its all about scoring runs...if u cant stop that useless...

  • Kislay on September 23, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    Sri lankan team will still finish with C1 status as they performed better then south african team in last t20 world cup.The death group will comprise of:india,Rsa,australia and pakistan.

  • Thimukvi on September 23, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    @ Buddhi Mathiesha Nanayakkara.. Machan, See complete fixtures schedule. what i see is all the super8 matches that C2 (Sri Lanka) play is in RPS. isn't it? am i looking at a some other schedule?

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