Clinical Lanka trounce Proteas

South Africa’s stated desire to attack Mendis’ ‘mystery’ spin came seriously unstuck as Sri Lanka cruised to a commanding victory in the opening match of the Champions Trophy. The Lankans emerged 55-run victors on the Duckworth-Lewis method after thundershowers stopped the match at 9.38 pm.

At that point, the home side had stuttered to 206 for seven in 37.4 overs in response to Sri Lanka’s 319 for eight, based around man of the match Dilshan’s third one-day ton and a silken 77 by Jayawardene. Under the D/L method, the par score ought to have been 261, a target never within sight of the Proteas.

Having seen his decision to stick the opposition in backfire, Graeme Smith took it upon himself to undo the damage, playing a series of effective if not always attractive strokes at the top of the innings to offset the third-over dismissal of Hashim Amla. With an equally attack-minded Jacques Kallis for company, Smith added 81 for the second wicket in just 67 deliveries when Kumar Sangakkara tossed the ball to Mendis.

The supposed waning of the Mendis mystery has been a major talking point in recent times. The 24-year-old needed only his first international delivery on South African soil to make a telling impact.

The feared middle finger-flicked carrom ball fizzed into Smith on pitching, defeated the left-hander’s push to leg and plucked leg-stump out. Bemused and befuddled, Smith’s countenance adequately reflected his shock as he trudged back to the pavilion. The message apparently percolated down the ranks, for the rest of the batsmen appeared equally clueless against Mendis, who finished off the match as a contest in a first spell of 5-0-18-3.

“It’s very difficult for batsmen who have never played him earlier to read and understand him,” Sangakkara observed later. “Even if you have played him before, you still need to play him out.”

Kallis, one of the more accomplished players of spin, was Mendis’ second victim, superbly caught by a diving Angelo Mathews at mid-off, while Jean-Paul Duminy was dismissed next ball, transfixed by another carrom ball that thudded into leg-stump via the inside edge off a tentative prod. The rest was normal service as South Africa’s Champions Trophy campaign at home began in much the same way as during the 2003 World Cup – with a crushing defeat.

Score Board

SRI LANKA
319/8 in 50 overs

SOUTH AFRICA
Smith b Mendis    58
(44b, 9x4, 1x6)
Amla b Mathews    2
(10b)
Kallis c Mathews b Mendis    41
(48b, 4x4)
De Villiers c J’wardene b Malinga    24
(38b)
Duminy b Mendis    0
(1b)
Boucher lbw Mathews    26
(29b, 2x4)
Morkel (not out)    29
(32b, 3x4)
Botha c Mathews b Malinga    21
(19b, 4x4)
Van der Merwe (not out)    3
(4b)
Extras (W-2)    2
Total (for 7 wkts, 37.4 overs)    206
Fall of wickets: 1-9 (Amla), 2-90 (Smith), 3-113 (Kallis), 4-113 (Duminy), 5-142 (De Villiers), 6-163 (Boucher), 7-198 (Botha).
Bowling: Lasith Malinga 7.4-0-43-2 (w-1), Nuwan Kulasekara 7-0-44-0, Angelo Mathews 8-1-43-2, Muttiah Muralitharan 8-0-46-0, Mendis 7-0-30-3 (w-1).
Runs during: Power Play 1: 1-10 overs: 61/1; Power Play 2: 11-15 overs: 32/1; Power Play 3 (batting): 34-37.4 overs: 35/1.

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