| Sri Lanka’s Maravan Atapattu after reaching his century versus South Africa in Durban Monday. (AFP)
Durban: Maravan Atapattu struck a brilliant century to power Sri Lanka to a challenging 268 for nine in a World Cup Group B league match here on Monday, setting South Africa a difficult task of chasing under lights to qualify for the Super Sixes.
South Africa were knocked out of the World Cup after rain intervened to leave the match in a tie under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
The hosts finished on 229 for six off 45 overs. Mark Boucher on 45 and Lance Klusener on one were at the crease when elements intervened. Herschelle Gibbs top-scored with 73. South Africa suffered an almost similar fate in the 1992 World Cup.
Atapattu’s solid 124 and his 152-run partnership for the fourth wicket with veteran Aravinda de Silva set the Islanders on the path of a big total.
However, Sri Lanka slipped a bit in the final overs losing a number of wickets. Except these two batsmen, none of the other Sri Lankans contributed anything substantial after captain Sanath Jayasuriya elected to bat first.
The Lankans did not have an impressive start as Jayasuriya struggled to score.
The flamboyant southpaw made only 16 runs from 30 balls before being run out in the ninth over with the total at 37.
Hashan Tillekeratne and Mahela Jayawardene were also dismissed cheaply.
However, Atapattu played an unusually attacking knock and dominated right from the start.
He got good support from De Silva, playing his last World Cup, and the two milked the South African bowlers during the middle overs. Atapattu, who smashed 18 boundaries in his 129-ball knock, was particularly impressive as he took upon himself the responsibility of ensuring a handsome score for his team.
De Silva also batted magnificently, hitting six fours and two sixes in his 78-ball 73.
The two brought the score to 242 in the 45th over before both got out in quick succession and the Sri Lankan innings lost its way.
Atapattu was caught at the long on by substitute Robin Peterson off Andrew Hall and De Silva fell in the next over, caught by Smith off Makhaya Ntini. Russel Arnold (8), Kumar Sangakkara (6), Chaminda Vaas (3) and Muthiah Muralidharan (4) also got out without much contribution as Sri Lanka could add just 26 runs to their total in the last five overs.