ICC World Cup 2015: South Africa thrash Sri Lanka to reach semi-finals
Sydney, March 18 (IANS) Spinners Imran Tahir (4-26) and Jean-Paul Duminy (3-29) starred for South Africa as they hammered a below-par Sri Lanka by nine wickets to reach the cricket World Cup semi-finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Wednesday.
Duminy's hat-trick -- the first by a South African in World Cup history -- and leg-spinner Tahir's four-wicket burst helped South Africa bowl out Sri Lanka for 133 runs in 37.2 overs in the first quarter-final. In reply, young wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock (78 not out), Hashim Amla (16) and Faf du Plessis (21 not out) completed the formalities for South Africa with nine wickets and 32 overs to spare.
With such a low total by Sri Lanka, the South Africans didn't feel the pressure and overhauled the target with ease. De Kock, with only 53 runs in the tournament so far, returned to form and registered his fourth half-century in One-Day International (ODI) cricket and helped his country to notch up the first World Cup knock-out win.
South Africa's win by 32 overs to spare is their biggest victory in World cup knock-outs. South African captain AB de Villiers said his team was "very motivated" as they looked to break loose from the tag of "chokers".
"We were very motivated for this game. The guys were in a really good space and they rocked up mentally," de Villiers said.
South Africa will now travel to Auckland to face the winners of the quarter-final between New Zealand and the West Indies.
Earlier, South Africa exerted pressure on the Sri Lankans quite early. Right-arm pacers Kyle Abbot and Dale Steyn removed openers Kusal Perera (3) and seasoned Tillakaratne Dilshan (0), respectively, to leave Sri Lanka in trouble at 4/2 in the fifth over.
Veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara, 37, didn't bat with the elegance and style he is known for and scored a 96-ball 45. Sangakkara, who scored four centuries in the previous four matches, took 16 deliveries to get off the mark.
After he scored five runs, he became just the sixth batsman to score more than 500 runs in a World Cup.
That speaks volumes of the tight line and length maintained by the South African bowlers. Sangakkara, who will quit ODI cricket after this World Cup, forged a 65-run partnership with Lahiru Thirimanne (41).
Young left-handed batsman Thirimanne looked in fine form, hitting five fours to score 41 in 48 balls. Man-of-the-Match leg-spinner Tahir started his show by breaking the partnership as he dismissed Thirimanne.
Another veteran, Mahela Jayawardene (4), playing in his final international tournament, also fell to Tahir.
Skipper Angelo Mathews became the first victim of Duminy's hat-trick. Off-spinner Duminy dismissed Mathews (19) on the final delivery of the 32nd over. In the first two deliveries of his next over, he got Nuwan Kulasekara (1) and Tharindhu Kaushal (2).
Duminy, 30, is just the eighth man overall to take a hat-trick in a World Cup match and second in the 2015 edition after Steven Finn's effort at the end of Australia's innings in the tournament opener on February 14.
Duminy also became the second spinner to claim a hat-trick in a World Cup after Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq's heroics in the 1999 event. Moreover, Duminy is only the second South African to get a hat-trick in ODI cricket. Pacer Charl Langeveldt did it in 2005.
Meanwhile, Morne Morkel removed Sangakkara, while Tahir bagged the wickets of young all-rounder Thisara Perera (0) and Lasith Malinga (3). The match was almost dead after the first innings and the target was too small for South Africa to "choke".
"This is easily the worst performance that we've done in the World Cup and it happened to be in the quarter-finals," bemoaned Sri Lanka skipper Mathews.
"There were no demons on the track, we could have batted well. We could have at least got to 250 and given our bowlers a chance, but unfortunately we didn't bat well. Maybe the nerves, we just didn't go for the shots," he admitted.
Mathews thanked old war horses Jayawardene and Sangakkara for their contributions.
"It's disappointing not to make it a memorable one for Mahela and Sanga. But let me take this opportunity on behalf of the country and the team to thank them for their services," Mathews said.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 133 all out in 37.2 overs (Kumar Sangakkara 45, Imran Tahir 4-26, Jean-Paul Duminy 3-29) lose to South Africa 134/1 in 18 overs (Quinton de Kock 78 not out; Lasith Malinga 1/43).