Dippenaar edges South Africa closer to final
South Africa 5 for 224 (Dippenaar 87, Boucher 30*) beat Sri Lanka 221 (Jayasuriya 86, Smith 3-30) by five wickets
Set 222 to win, they were quickly out of the traps with Dippenaar striking Russel Arnold, rather oddly chosen to open the bowling with Chaminda Vaas, for a succession of boundaries. Lofting him over his head for four, and later in the over for a huge six over long-on, Dippenaar had lit the fuse. Driving Vaas for two classical, elegant fours in the following over aptly highlighted the Sri Lankans' shortcomings earlier in the day.
His opening partner, Graeme Smith - whose own form had come under the spotlight after a poor series up until this match - was in good touch, and began to look like the batsman of old. Driving Nuwan Kulasekara down the ground, and hitting a flurry of fours and a huge six, Smith was on course for a well-compiled fifty, but for the introduction of Muttiah Muralitharan who produced a crafty doosra.
Dippenaar fell to Muralitharan too, giving Kumar Sangakarra - whose keeping was faultless throughout - a simple catch. Indeed, Sangakarra featured in all five South African wickets to fall, smartly stumping both Jacques Rudolph and Justin Kemp. Despite these late wickets, Boucher and Prince eased their side home, with more than four overs to spare, with an assuredness that the Sri Lankans could only envy. Indeed, Sri Lanka's brittle batting was the catalyst which transformed the game.
Comfortably placed and scoring freely at 1 for 137, they capitulated to lose 9 for 85 through a combination of ridiculous strokeplay and suicidal running between the wickets. Remarkably, the rot was started by the seemingly innocuous offspin of Smith, but the Sri Lankans had just themselves to blame.
And it was all going so well, too, when Sanath Jayasuriya was at the crease. He and Jehan Mubarak, who fell to Smith for 31, started promisingly with an opening stand of 94. Jayasuriya swatted, smashed and carved his way to 86 before a lazy late-cut found the diving Prince at backward point to give Smith his second wicket. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara lasted mere minutes, as Sri Lanka lost 3 for 7 in four overs to hand over the impetus, limply, to South Africa.
The floodgates were open, and the farce began: Marvan Atapattu cut meekly to point; Russel Arnold cut straight to gully and Chaminda Vaas was left stranded at the wrong end. On such a flat pitch, it was a disappointing show - especially after Jayasuriya's initial fireworks.
Sri Lanka's defeat confirms Australia's berth in the final, while South Africa are now placed second on 12 points. The hosts meet South Africa at Melbourne on Friday.
Graeme Smith c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 41 (1 for 84)
Followed a doosra into keeper's gloves
Jacques Rudolph st Sangakkara b Bandara 25 (2 for 164)
Cleverly beaten by the googly, smartly stumped
Boeta Dippenaar c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 87 (3 for 164)
Tried to work it to the onside, beaten by the turn
Herschelle Gibbs b Muralitharan 4 (4 for 175)
Attempted slog beaten by turn
Justin Kemp c Sangakkara b Bandara 6 (5 for 190)
Well flighted, smartly stumped again
Jehan Mubarak b Smith 31 (1 for 94)
Tried to glide to third man and the ball hurried onto him
Sanath Jayasuriya c Prince b Smith 86 (2 for 137)
Lazy late-cut, caught at backward point
Mahela Jayawardene lbw Smith 1 (3 for 142)
Missed a straight one, tramped in front
Kumar Sangakkara c Kemp b Langeveldt 16 (4 for 144)
Edged to a lone slip
Marvan Atapattu c Rudolph b van der Wath 7 (5 for 159)
Cut limply to point
Russel Arnold c Kemp b Pollock 15 (6 for 179)
Cut hard, good high catch at gully
Chaminda Vaas run out (Prince) 0 (7 for 179)
Nuwan Kulasekara c Kemp b Pollock 1 (8 for 182)
Defensive push found outside edge
Malinga Bandara run out (Prince) 11 (9 for 216)
Suicidal second run
Tillakaratne Dilshan run out (Kemp) 37 (10 for 222)
Non-striker, Muralitharan, not interested in a quick single. Stranded.
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo