Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara held their nerve in the death overs with miserly fast bowling as Sri Lanka beat South Africa by five runs in their World Twenty20 opener at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong yesterday.
South Africa had the upper hand chasing 166 for victory in their Group One Super 10 match and needed 19 runs off the last two overs with five wickets in hand.
However, Kulasekara gave away just four runs and picked up the wicket of Farhaan Behardien (5) to leave South Africa needing 15 runs off limited-overs specialist Malinga’s final over.
Dale Steyn (0) and the dangerous David Miller (19) were run out off the first two deliveries, and although Imran Tahir (8 not out) managed a last-ball six, the chase was already beyond South Africa’s reach.
J.P. Duminy (39) top-scored for the Proteas, who ended on 160-8, and off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake was the most successful Sri Lanka bowler with figures of 2-22.
Opener Kusal Perera’s assault gave Sri Lanka the tempo at the start of their innings, and Angelo Mathews provided the late fireworks to lift them to 165-7 after their captain Dinesh Chandimal had won the toss.
The diminutive Perera made clear his intentions with two fours and a six in three deliveries off Steyn’s opening over and brought up his fifty off just 29 deliveries.
He made 61 off 40 deliveries, including six fours and three sixes, before falling to leg-spinner Tahir, who stemmed the run flow and picked up 3-26.
Mathews was bowled by Steyn in the final over of the Sri Lanka innings, but not before the Test and one-day captain had compiled 43 off 32 deliveries.
Elsewhere, West Indies captain Darren Sammy laughed off India batsman Suresh Raina’s claim that the big-hitting Caribbean cricketers cannot rotate the strike and dared the Indians to stop his batsmen from hitting sixes in today’s World Twenty20 match.
Having played against and with West Indies players in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition, Raina did not doubt the big-hitting prowess of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels.
“West Indies will be a totally different team as they have a lot of players who can hit sixes, but they don’t have an idea about how to rotate the strike against spinners by taking singles and twos,” Raina told reporters.
“Therefore, the more pressure we put on the bigger players, the better it will be for us,” the 27-year-old left-hander said on the eve of the Group Two Super 10 match at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium.
Less than an hour after Raina left, Sammy was in the same room, spinning on the swivel chair with childlike glee before the questions began.
“Raina has a right to say whatever he wants,” the ever-smiling Sammy said. “But if he feels we’re [just] six-hitters, then they got to stop us from hitting sixes.”
Focusing on the serious task of defending the World Twenty20 title, Sammy said his team’s batting strength should see them through in Bangladesh.
“The good thing in our team is we don’t really have to rely on any one person. We have at least four, five, six potential match-winners,” he said.
“Yes, it is important to handle spin better, but like I said, I’m quite happy with the team and batting lineup is not a concern,” Sammy said.
“In the shorter format, the bulk of your runs have to come from the top four, five. We have strong guys at the top of the order, [in the] middle Marlon and [Lendl] Simmons or [Dwayne] Bravo and coming down to me and [Andre] Russell,” he said. “We’re not looking at one person to deliver. You may have a brilliant team but it takes a total team effort.”