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South Africans give their confidence a boost

South Africa turned in a controlled performance that sent a warning to the teams they have still to meet in the CricInfo Women's World Cup that they are coming into form in the latter part of the tournament.

The match against Sri Lanka had virtually everything - early solid defence, defiant late aggression, controlled bowling, bursts of excellent fielding, an overload of run outs and dissatisfaction with the umpiring.

South Africa produced the first surprise of the day, putting Sri Lanka in after winning the toss. However, the coach, Rodney Willemberg, said they wanted to take advantage of what they believed was a tendency among the Sri Lankans to succumb under pressure.

So it proved. Through tight bowling from Kim Price (10-4-14-1), Helen Davies (8-1-16-1), Nolubabalo Ndzundzu (10-6-14-1) and Alison Hodgkinson (4-1-9-0), the Sri Lankan top order appeared devoid of attacking shots or an ability to push the ball around for quick singles.

By 30 overs, they had crawled to 43 for three and yet another score of under 100 in the tournament seemed a definite possibility. However, the Sri Lankans showed, like the other developing teams in this tournament, that they will fight to the end. So, with aggressive contributions from Champa Sugathadasa (21), Chandrika Lakmalee (21) and Ramani Perera (13 not out), they produced a score of 134 for nine, respectable given the early dearth of runs.

But how many runs there might have been if that frailty under pressure that the South African coach had identified had not come to pass. Five wickets - including the last four - fell to run outs. The accurate South African fielding contributed - offered gifts have to be accepted - but the Sri Lankans were the architects of their own misfortune. In almost every incident, the ball was played directly to a fieldsman. But it seemed that the batsmen's mindset demanded that the very action of bat on ball required that a run be taken. And so they went.....and went....and went.....

And they did not go very happily either. Words were exchanged between "partners" as the hapless loser in what fast became a comedy of errors departed the scene. However, the Sri Lankan manager, Chandra Munaweera, acknowledging that her players get "excited," was not convinced that all of the decisions should have gone against them.

And she suggested that in calling wides and lbws against her team the umpires "have not been fair, not been just. I hope they will be in future matches."

However, she said her team had not fielded and bowled as well as they did in their defeat of Ireland and they had needed more runs. "If we had scored 150, we could have won." What the match had demonstrated was the disadvantage the team was placed under through a lack of match practice.

When South Africa batted, their top order gave a salutary lesson in how to rise above a slow early run rate. Tight Sri Lankan bowling restricted South Africa to 56 for two at 25 overs, but controlled batting by CricInfo Player of the Match for the second successive game, Daleen Terblanche (53 not out), and Helen Davies (24) in a third wicket partnership of 68 meant South Africa cruised to victory in the 46th over.

Terblanche, fresh from being the rock while wickets fell around her against the Netherlands, earned her 50 with a mixture of controlled aggression and resolute defence.

The South African coach said he was exceptionally happy with Terblanche but especially pleased that his top order had had time in the middle. "We have the batting strength and we are now starting to show it. The run rate is not going to be an issue in the final placings so it was more important that we get confidence with the bat.

"We played decent cricket out there today."

Result: Sri Lanka 134 for nine; South Africa 135 for four. A win to South Africa by six wickets.