South Africa were cruising along to a comfortable victory over Sri Lanka but the end result was a nervous 1-wicket win with 10 balls to spare. Set a moderate target of 210, the Proteas were going along smoothly until they had lost four wickets for just the addition of one run. Lasith Malinga almost bowled the Lankans to an unbelievable win by taking four wickets in four deliveries! Eventually, it was Charl Langeveldt, the no. 11 and also the hero with the ball, surviving nine deliveries that got the better of a dangerous Sri Lankan team.
On a hot and sunny day at the newly constructed Providence Stadium in Guyana, Mahela Jayawardene won the toss to take first strike. He had to see his side struggle at 98 for 5 on a dry wicket that lacked any pace and bounce. The innings got into a shape thanks to a magnificent rearguard action from the sixth wicket pair of Dilshan and Arnold. Both these middle order batsmen got half centuries. They put on 97 runs for the sixth wicket that helped Sri Lanka reach 209 before they were all out. Dilshan made 58 from 76 with 4 fours while Arnold made exactly 50 before he was dismissed in the 49th over.
The Lankans looked good enough to post a total of over 220, but they had lost their way once again in the 49th over losing three wickets to Charl Langeveldt. All the three wickets going down with the batsmen attempting to play the big ones. So the track was not suitable for the batsmen to go full throttle, it was a wicket that needed patience and lot of running between the wickets. Sri Lanka could just get the 18 fours in their innings and not a single six which was a clear indication of how difficult strokeplay was on this pitch. Charl Langeveldt picked up a career best figures of 5 for 39 in 10 overs.
Chaminda Vaas struck gold in his first over with an incoming delivery that sneaked past the bat pad gap of AB de Villiers. But after that it was all about Graeme Smith and the support he got from Kallis. South Africa seemed to be running away with the match with the three seamers not able to inflict any damage. That left Mahela to hold back his third powerplay to introduce his trump card – the one and only Muttiah Muralitharan. Graeme Smith got stumped out in the 18th over, carelessly dragging his backleg out of the crease as he went for a big drive through the covers. There was enough turn to beat the outside edge from Murali to present a simple stumping for Sangakkara, there was no need of the third umpire too! Smith perished after scoring a busy 59 from 65 with 7 fours and the only six of the match!
Kallis after the departure of Smith teamed up with Gibbs to put on 65 runs for the 3rd wicket. But Sri Lanka were given a new life when Mark Boucher was given lbw to Murali in the very next ball after Gibbs (31) was caught and bowled by the same bowler. All of a sudden, South Africa found themselves at 160 for 4. Still lot of batting left and the required run rate was never ever going to be a problem. The real push for victory from the Lankans came when Lasith Malinga struck two twin blows. The first blow saw Pollock (cleaned up by a slower delivery) and Hall (caught at covers after squeezing out a yorker) depart in the last two balls of the 45th over and the second one had the all important wicket of Kallis (caught behind after going for a drive on the rise) and then Ntini (done in by a blistering yorker) in the first two balls of the 47th over. The wicket of Kallis meant that Lasith Malinga became only the fifth bowler to take a hat-trick in World Cup. Never mind even if that had come in a losing cause, no one can deny the breathtaking efforts put by him in his last spell. Kallis was the top scorer with 86 from 110 balls and like any other batsman found it tough to get the boundaries, he got just 4.
It was Robin Peterson getting the honour of scoring the winning runs which had come through an outside edge off Lasith Malinga that ran away to the third man fence! Malinga was too expensive in a low scoring match, conceding 54 runs but when he got those four wickets, there was hardly anything that his skipper would have complained about. The Man of the Match went to Langeveldt with South Africa winning otherwise it could have been Lasith Malinga, who changed the complexion of the game with four deliveries. While Malinga was the star, Murali quietly went through his duty by picking up 3 for 34 in his 10 overs. Jayasuriya did his part by giving away only the same amount of runs in his 10 overs besides removing the big hitting Justin Kemp.