Sri Lanka went into the much anticipated 8th edition of the Champions Trophy as ‘underdogs’ given their recent performances and skipper Angelo Mathews said “he's happy to be in that position”.
Mathews missed the opening game as he was nursing from a hamstring injury, a major blow as Sri Lanka faced South Africa, one of the tournament favorites.
Winning the toss and putting South Africa to bat, Sri Lankan seamers contained the South African openers giving away only three boundaries within the first 14 overs.
South Africa eventually scored 299 runs and Hashim Amla scored his fifth ODI century against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s chase looked under control when Niroshan Dickwella showed his aggressive batting skills by taking over the South African bowling attack which included the number one ranked ODI bowler Kagiso Rabada. Despite the quick-fire opening stand, Sri Lanka lost its way in the middle and lost the match by a staggering 96 runs.
Listed are 5 key reasons for Sri Lanka’s loss
05 - Malinga’s drop
Faf Du Plessis was left off the hook when he was on 8 runs when Malinga dropped a rather straight forward catch. He was swirling around the boundary rope and eventually dropped the catch. Faf later went on to dominate the Lankan bowlers with ease and scored 75 runs.
04 - Genuine wicket taking bowler
Sri Lanka took a huge gamble by operating with four specialist bowlers and hoping the likes of Asela Gunarathne to fill in as the 5th bowler’s slot. To be fair with Gunarathne, he didn’t let the African batsman score freely where he gave away only 63 runs at an economy rate of just over 6 runs per over.
Sri Lanka missed the services of a genuine wicket taking bowler to control and pick up wickets in the middle overs of the match. South Africa scored 130 runs between the 10th and the 30th overs of the match which gave them a solid platform.
Being the only genuine spinner of the team Seekkuge Prasanna looked hapless by the solid batting of Amla and Faf where he gave away 72 runs in his 10 overs. Having four genuine wicket-keepers in the playing XI (Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis , Kusal Perera , Dinesh Chandimal ) Upul Tharanga didn’t have much part time bowling options too .
Despite losing control in the middle overs Sri Lankan seamers pulled back in the death overs where they didn’t allow South African hard-hitting batsmen to score heavily.
03 – Middle-order collapse
After the quick-fire start Sri Lanka got from Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga, the other batsmen didn’t have much composure to build up a partnership and take Sri Lanka towards the 300 run mark. Sri Lanka at one stage were 93 runs for the loss of 1 wicket but went on to lose five more wickets in a span of 62 runs which led the scoreboard to a disappointing 166 for 6 wickets.
02 - Upul Tharanga’s wicket
If someone who could have done it for Sri Lanka after loosing Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal, it would have been Upul Tharanga. Upul who played a decent innings holding the Sri Lankan innings until he tried to clear Imran Tahir over deep cover where he was caught by David Miller. Upul’s wicket opened the flood gates for South Africa to bowl out Sri Lanka well within 42 overs.
01- The Tahir factor
Tahir has now picked up 24 wickets in his last 10 games against Sri Lanka at an astonishing average of 15.79 runs per wicket. Tahir was the decisive factor in the bilateral series in January/February as well as in this game.
AB De Villiers kept Tahir until the 17 over of the match and he didn’t take much time to act on what he does best. Dinesh Chandimal got run out on the first over of Tahir and then Chamara Kapugerada trapped for a wonderfully disguised googly of his first ball faced. Kumar Sangagkara on the commentary box stated that Kapugerada should have been expecting the googly from Tahir first up as he beats the right handers often with his accurate googly.
Tharanga gave his wicket away to Tahir trying to clear him over deep cover and then Asela Gunarathne followed. It was a matter of time until South Africa picked up the remaining wickets and Tahir came in and picked up the last wicket to finish with figures of 4 for 27 at an economy of 3.17