Shaun Pollock led a pack of sharp pacemen to inspire South Africa's crucial 78-run victory over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy tournament in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
He grabbed two big wickets as South Africa defended their modest total of 219-9 by dismissing Sri Lanka for 141 in a Group-B match they desperately needed to win to sustain their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals.
Fast bowlers Andre Nel (3-41) and Makhaya Ntini (2-24) also impressed but it was man-of-the-match Pollock who wrecked Sri Lanka's top order, bowling his full quota of 10 overs in one spell to finish with 2-21. Pollock also contributed a vital 21 not out, brought off a run-out and held a catch.
This was South Africa's first win after two matches in the four-team group, having lost to New Zealand in their previous game at Mumbai on a dubious pitch. They now take on Pakistan in their last league game tomorrow.
Sri Lanka finished their league engagements with one win in three games. New Zealand have posted one victory in two matches and Pakistan one in one.
All the teams are still in contention, with the top two advancing to the semi-finals.
"It was a good wicket to chase 220, but our first 20 overs did the trick," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said.
"Since Shaun was on a roll and managed to get breakthroughs we thought of using him at one stretch. I think [Sri Lanka captain Mahela Mahela] Jayawardene's run-out was important because that put Sri Lankans under pressure. Our boys were extra motivated," he said.
Put in to bat, South Africa were rattled by pace before being propped by AB de Villiers (54) and Jacques Kallis (43), who added 80 for the fourth wicket after their team had been struggling at 30-3.
They managed to cross the 200-mark, thanks to a rollicking stand between Robin Peterson (22) and Pollock who plundered 32 runs in the last two overs.
Fast bowlers Lasith Malinga (4-53) and Chaminda Vaas (2-16) did the maximum damage. They received valuable support from left-arm spinner Sanath Jayasuriya, who finished with 2-36.
Sri Lanka then got a dose of their own medicine as Pollock, Ntini and Nel grabbed the first four wickets for just 34 runs to put their team on course for a vital victory.
"Batting second was not a wrong decision. We did not bat well and the fall of four early wickets changed the momentum," Jayawardene said.
"I think my dismissal was the turning point as I tried to build a partnership with [Tillakaratne] Dilshan, but once I was out it was an uphill task. We had our chances but we messed them up. I think 220 was gettable," he said.
Pollock began it when he trapped Jayasuriy(3) leg-before in his third over before having wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara caught behind for a duck in his sixth.
Ntini got the prize wicket of Upul Tharanga, who was caught behind for 11. Tharanga was the tournament's leading scorer before this game with 309 runs in five matches with two centuries.
Nel then bowled former skipper Marvan Atapattu with a gem of a delivery that came in sharply to rattle the stumps.
A run-out was the last thing Sri Lanka needed at this stage and they virtually lost the match when well-set Jayawardene fell short of the crease after scoring a neat 36, joint top-scorer with Dilshan.
South Africa then made short work of Sri Lanka's lower-order batting, with Vaas (29 not out) alone offering resistance.