'We never had a chance' - Jayawardene
Failure to capitalise on what were virtual home conditions for Sri Lanka left their captain Mahela Jayawardene frustrated though not disheartened after a classic finish in a classic match. "We just did not deserve to win this game for the way we batted today, full stop," Jayawardene said.
"We always knew the wicket would suit us, our spinners. It was definitely a game for us to win. But the way we played today, we never had a chance, except for that last burst from [Lasith] Malinga.
"We knew this probably was a 230-240 wicket. Losing early wickets, a couple of loose shots and then the way we finished the innings, we were not very happy with that. But a lot of credit to the bowlers who put us back in the game."
Regardless of the defeat, the Sri Lankans provided a sensational twist to a match which, at the three-quarter point, had lost even interested observers. It was yet another message from a team which remains a strong contender.
"We don't give up," Jayawardene said. "That's one thing that we never do. We believe we can win matches from any situation, and we showed that.
"Murali bowled brilliantly and Mali [Malinga] showed what he is all about. He can be a big force. He went for a few runs with the new ball, but he usually does pick up early wickets with that as well. He can be a handful for the lower middle-order and the tail-enders, and he has been so for quite some time. He can pick up wickets.
"I can use him at any stage - use him in one-over spells, two-over spells. He is always good to go. He is something special that we have in this team and hopefully we can use that to our benefit in the future."
South Africa have now drawn level with Sri Lanka on points in the Super Eights table, and if they face each other again in the tournament it is not likely to be in conditions quite so favourable to Sri Lanka. "It was a big game for us," Jayawardene said. "We knew this was a very big game and two points would have been very crucial.
"But the way we played today, I am not that disappointed. I would have been disappointed if we had played really good cricket and then lost. The way we played, we never had a chance, we still managed to create an opportunity."
Rahul Bhattacharya is contributing editor of Cricinfo Magazine and author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04