Spells of patience in both batting and bowling disciplines helped South Africa to a 96-run victory over Sri Lanka with Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir stealing the show.
Amla and du Plessis steady the ship
Despite a disappointing three-match ODI series against England, South Africa's batting line-up is more than capable of manufacturing scores well in excess of 300. They fell a run short of that target after a steady start but would have been relatively pleased with their 299-6 on a challenging Oval pitch.
Hashim Amla took control of the innings with a patient 103 runs from 115 balls. As his opening partner Quinton de Kock struggled to get the ball away before being dismissed for 23, Amla settled into the game with various comfortable prods, pulls and cuts behind square.
Faf du Plessis was exceptional alongside Amla as he made 75 from 70 balls in a defining 145-run stand. At 189-2, South Africa were ready to accelerate with only 16 balls left.
Yet regular wickets, including two run outs, kept the Proteas in check, as only JP Duminy found the boundary within his consistent range. The number six made 38 runs off 20 balls, including five fours and one six, to help South Africa to a respectable and defendable total.
Sri Lanka fail to build after sharp start
Sri Lanka decided their best route towards the target was to attack the South African bowlers from the outset. Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella set his stall out as he smashed 41 runs from 33 balls, finding the ropes on six occasions. By the time he returned to the dressing room, Sri Lanka had already made 69 from just 50 deliveries.
Kushal Mendis joined captain Upul Tharanga with a familiar approach. Sri Lanka were still well on top of the run rate when Mendis was dismissed for just 11 from 10 balls.
As Tharanga worked his way to a patient half century, the early Sri Lanka fireworks were soon forgotten as South Africa began to tie their opponents up. In stark contrast, just 22 runs were scored from 32 balls before a decisive eighteenth over from Tahir that saw the wickets of both Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedera fall.
When Tharanga fell victim to Tahir after 57 from 69 balls, Sri Lanka found themselves 146-5 midway through their innings. Behind the run rate and with wickets falling, the underdogs panicked as they lost their last five wickets for just 57 runs.
Tahir finished with 4-27 and a run out to his name as Sri Lanka fell 96 runs short after being bowled out in the 42nd over. It leaves the Asian nation with it all to do if they want to qualify for the knockout stages.