The first of the quarter-finals at the #Cricket World Cup proved to be something of a one-sided affair in Sydney earlier today, as South Africa were far too good for the Sri Lankans. With the match looking likely to be a battle of the big scorers, with both sets of batsmen looking to be in top form in their previous group matches, the reality proved to be something quite different. Sri Lanka's highly-rated batting line-up for once crumbled in the face of their opponents' spinners, reducing them to just a paltry 133 all out. The Proteas' batsmen were in no mood to draw the game out longer than they needed to, knocking off the small total in only 18 overs.
Sri Lanka seemed intent on letting their fabled batsmen have the first knock when they won the toss, but were soon in trouble at 4-2, as both Kusal Perera (3) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (0) hardly troubled the scorers, before being caught behind the wicket. The ever reliable Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne attempted to steady the ship with a 65-run third-wicket partnership, but when Thirimanne (41) was caught and bowled for the first of Imran Tahir's four wickets, his side never really recovered.
As the wickets continued to fall at regular intervals at the other end, Sangakkara decided to abandon his patient innings and hit out instead, eventually holing out off the bowling of Morne Morkel on 45, becoming the ninth wicket to fall. After four successive centuries in the tournament leading into the match, it was only a par score for a man of his ability, and not one of his most flowing displays to end his ODI career with. Sri Lanka limped their way to 133 all out in the end, off 37.2 overs. It was a sad end to Mahela Jayawardene's ODI career as well, as he managed just 4 runs before becoming another of Tahir's victims.
Tahir finished with marvellous figures of 4-26 with JP Duminy claiming a 'staggered' and staggering hat-trick in his 3-29 spell, with the three deliveries being split up by a Tahir over in between them.
South Africa made light work of chasing the 134 target, hitting the runs they needed in a mere 18 overs, for the loss of just Hashim Amla. He was removed on 16 by the 'old fox' Lasith Malinga, eliciting an injudicious shot that was caught at third man. That was Sri Lanka's only success though, as Quinton de Kock played his way back into form with an unbeaten 78 from 57 balls and Faf du Plessis (21) held the other end up to see their side home safely.
Tahir was named as man of the match, in recognition of his part in ripping the heart out of the middle order.
Sri Lanka's gambles on several levels for the match did not really work or make complete sense. They introduced two relative novices into their ranks in the shape of Dushmantha Chameera and Tharindu Kaushal, neither with much experience in ODIs, although in truth they had few runs to play with when brought into the bowling attack. Chameera went for 29 runs in his 2 overs, while Kaushal looked more promising with 25 runs off his 6 over spell. Perera opening the batting for the first time in this World Cup was perhaps more of an error in judgement.
South Africa by contrast had few concerns and seem to be warming to their task in this World Cup. For once there was no need for the middle order heroics of skipper AB de Villiers, as his decision to allow his players to go surfing the day before the contest did not seem to backfire at all.
The South Africans will ready themselves for a semi-final clash against either New Zealand or West Indies in Auckland, with the Kiwis being hot favourites for that quarter-final.