Calcutta/Chittagong: Opener Kusal Perera made a strokeful 61 before Sri Lanka bowlers produced a brilliant show in the death overs to pull off a thrilling five-run win over South Africa in their World Twenty20 campaign opener, here, on Saturday.
Electing to bat, Sri Lanka posted a challenging 165 for seven in 20 overs. South Africa seemed to be cruising in their chase as they required 19 runs from the last two overs with five wickets in hand.
But Nuwan Kulasekara gave away just four runs and picked up the wicket of Farhaan Behardien (five) to leave South Africa needing 15 runs off Malinga’s final over.
South Africa were still hopeful of notching up a win with the dangerous David Miller at the crease. But, they could not hold on to their nerves. Miller (19) and Dale Steyn (0) were run out off the first two deliveries and although Imran Tahir (8 ..) managed a last-ball six, the chase had already gone out of South Africa’s reach.
For Sri Lanka, off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake grabbed two wickets for 22 runs while Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis took one wicket apiece.
A visibly ecstatic Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal said after the match: “Everyone is over the moon. Kusal Perera hit some good boundaries to get us a good start and Mathews finished it off well.
“165 was a competitive total and we have bowlers like Mendis and Malinga to defend that. Our death bowling was very good. It became really tight at the end but we knew that we could win this game. Overall, we did well as a unit.
South Africa’s run chase was built on a 60-run second-wicket stand between opener Hashim Amla (23) and top-scorer JP Duminy (39). Such was the dominance of the two batsmen that the Proteas found themselves in a strong position at 75 for one after 10 overs.
But they failed to seize the key moments towards the end. Opener Quinton de Kock (25), AB de Villiers (24), who stood in as captain in place of an injured Faf du Plessis, also made useful contributions.
“I won’t say that we produced our best bowling performance ever, but the bowlers did come back well after initial hiccups and brought us back into the match,” said De Villiers.