The knockout stages of the quarter finals kicked off on the 18th of March between two of the most exciting teams. Sri Lanka were playing South Africa at the SCG. A battle between two titans. Neither team had been having a perfect run through the the group stages. South Africa lost to both India and Pakistan but beat both Ireland and the West Indies by 200+ runs. Sri Lanka had been beaten by Australia and New Zealand but beat both England and Bangladesh by nine wickets. However both teams were coming into the game with players in the form of their life. Kumar Sangakkara was coming off a world record of four consecutive centuries and AB de Villiers had been consistently performing with an unbelievable 162 not-out from 66 balls.
South Africa however were not only facing Sri Lanka, they were facing themselves. A side with some of the most destructive batsmen in the world and possibly the singular most hostile bowler in the world. A side that has never won a world cup knock-out game since 1992. They had been labelled World Cup chokers. AB de Villiers had been part of the side that was knocked out on the previous two occasions and this time was leading the pack.
It wasn’t the best start for South Africa as Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat. South Africa’s two losses of the tournament had come from chasing totals. Their loss against New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup had also come from a collapse whilst chasing.
It was however the only thing that went wrong for South Africa for the rest of the game. Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott bowled with pure unadulterated aggression. They troubled the Sri Lankan openers who could not get away. Kusal Perera swung blindly at everything the South African bowlers threw at them and Tillakaratne Dilshan never looked ready. Both openers were caught out edging the ball and from then on, the Sri Lankans could not pull together a partnership. Kumar Sangakkara looked as though he was in it for the long haul as he played himself in. However he was never given the chance to get going, it was a catch-22 situation. Sangakkara had to steady the innings but he had to make runs as wickets continued to fall at the other end. Imran Tahir and JP Duminy bowled extremely well to contain the Sri Lankans and constantly pick off wickets. Not one of the Sri Lankan batsmen had a strike rate of 90+ with only Lahiru Thirimanne striking at 60+. Once Angelo Mathews was removed at 114, the innings collapsed. The next three batsmen fell for two runs and Sri Lanka were all out for 133.
Had Sri Lanka made 220+, South Africa might have felt uneasy with their chasing history but it was a walk in the park. Quinton de Kock found some form scoring 78 not out and South Africa chased down the total in 18 overs with nine wickets in hand. It was a disappointing end for Sri Lanka. This was Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena’s last ODI game but it was almost as though the team had not even turned up to the SCG.
South Africa had finally broken their jinx, they looked like a fantastic unit and they could go into the semi-finals with a clean slate.