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September 24, 2009

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Sri Lanka torments Proteas in opener

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 in Centurion on Tuesday.

Mendis removed South Africa skipper Graeme Smith, then Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy in successive deliveries when the hosts 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 the park the hosts fell 55 runs short of the 261 runs set as par by the Duckworth/Lewis method.

"Ajantha is a big challenge for anyone playing him for the first time," said Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara.

"With him, Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga, we have a lot of unorthodox match-winners in our side."

For Sri Lanka, Tillakaratne Dilshan's third one-day international century of 106 included 16 boundaries, including his trademark scoop over the wicketkeeper off pacer Dale Steyn and one six in 92 balls.

After Steyn trapped Sanath Jayasuriya LBW for 10 with the total on 16, Dilshan and 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.

"Dilshan was excellent as usual," Sangakkara said, "but Mahela in the middle of the innings really finished things off for us."

For South Africa, Steyn scooped 3-47 for the best return. Parnell also took three wickets but gave away 79 runs. Roelof van der Merwe was the most economical, his spinners going for 42 runs in 10 overs.

"We never got our basics right and we've got to improve very quickly," Smith said.

"The number of extras we gave away is a problem, and we've got to think better on our feet."

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.


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