CENTURION: Ajantha Mendis mesmerized South Africa’s top order as he took 3-30 to spin Sri Lanka to a 55-run victory in the rain-shortened Champions Trophy opener on Tuesday.
Mendis removed South Africa skipper Graeme Smith, then Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy in successive deliveries when South Africa looked set to chase the 319-8 tallied by Sri Lanka.
Instead, South Africa stuttered to 206-7 in 37.4 overs before a storm hit Centurion Park and the hosts fell 55 runs short of the 261 runs set as par by the Duckworth/Lewis method.
For Sri Lanka, Tillakaratne Dilshan’s third one-day international century of 106 included 16 boundaries _ including his trademark scoop over the wicketkeeper off Dale Steyn, one of the premier fast bowlers in the world _ and one six in 92 balls.
After Steyn trapped Sanath Jayasuriya lbw for 10 with the total on 16, Dilshan and captain Kumar Sangakkara shared a 158-run partnership. Sangakkara was caught and bowled for 54 by part-time spinner Duminy at 174-2 in the 28th over.
Dilshan was out to Steyn a few balls later, caught at third man after cutting a short delivery outside off stump.
But Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera restored Sri Lanka’s momentum with a partnership of 116 for the fourth wicket.
Jayawardene fell for 77 off the bowling of Wayne Parnell. On the next delivery, Samaraweera edged Parnell to third man to be dismissed for 37 off 47 balls.
The rest of the innings tailed off as three wickets fell in the final seven balls.
The South African bowlers battled, with Steyn’s 3-47 the best return. Parnell also took three wickets but they cost 79 runs. Roelof van der Merwe was the most economical, his spinners going for 42 runs in 10 overs.
Smith scored freely for his 58 off 44 balls, but his first sight of Mendis saw him miss the legspinner and lose his leg stump.
Kallis looked impressive for his 41, but he got anxious as Mendis tied him down and he holed out to a good catch at midoff by Angelo Mathews. Duminy chopped the next delivery on and was gone for a duck.
At the end, Albie Morkel was there on 29, giving South Africa the faintest of unrealistic hopes.
In addition to Mendis’ good bowling, Lasith Malinga took 2-43, as did Mathews. On Wednesday, Pakistan meets West Indies.