Proteas dissect fragile Sri Lanka


Hashim Amla became the fastest to 25th ODI century while Imran Tahir picked a four-wicket haul as South Africa completed a 96-run victory against Sri Lanka in their ICC Champions Trophy opening game at Kennington Oval.

Amla scored a measured 103 off 115 deliveries and shared a 145-run stand with Faf du Plessis (75) for the second wicket as South Africa recovered from a very slow start to score 299/6 in 50 overs in their Group B opener.

To make things worse for Sri Lanka a dawdling over rate was punished with an uncontested two-match ban for the stand-in captain, Upul Tharanga, whose team were four overs short of where they should have been towards the end of South Africa's innings.

Malinga took the new ball as Hashim Amla and Q de Kock started the proceedings for South Africa.

Introduced after 17 overs with Sri Lanka 116 for four, Dinesh Chandimal thought it wise to run after finding AB de Villiers, one of the game's best fielders, at mid off.

Sri Lanka responded well and had South Africa shaking at times, but they could only muster 203 for nine as their challenge faded, with quick-fire wickets early on halting momentum. South Africa will be odds-on favorites to win the match. In an uncharacteristic beginning to the innings, they managed only 32 runs in the first 10 over Powerplay and did not strike a boundary until the seventh over.

Things got a bit slow as the two unsafe batsmen i.e. F du Plessis and AB de Villiers were back in the pavilion at quick intervals. Without much risk, South Africa reached 163 after 30 overs, adding 131 runs between overs 10 and 30.

Though the all-rounder was declared fully fit before the team's departure for the United Kingdom, a statement from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) on Thursday revealed that Mathews suffered a "strain on the muscle".

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The Proteas leg-spinner took 4/27 off his 8.3 overs and was also involved in the run-out of Sri Lankan bowler Suranga Lakmal.

Ball in hand, Wayne Parnell and Kagiso Rabada took a cue from the Sri Lankan pacers and attempted to bowl straight, but were not as tight in the execution.

"It was an awesome innings", AB de Villiers, his captain, said.

Sri Lanka is a potential banana skin for any side, with the energy and skill its side has, and it was noticeable that the track wasn't coming on as well as players have come to expect at the Oval.

"We actually could have won that series, easily - which is a great boost of confidence for us - keeping in mind that we played 15 players, and it was a bit of a warm-up for the Champions Trophy".

In fact, after just eight overs, Sri Lanka had raced to 68 without loss, forcing Proteas captain, AB de Villiers, to turn to his most experienced bowler, the returning Morne Morkel.

But Amla got together with Du Plessis to put up a 144 run partnership which proved to be the difference.