Proteas dig deep to beat Sri Lanka in T20 World Cup opener

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Anrich Nortje is congratulated by Proteas teammates after taking a wicket against Sri Lanka at the T20 World Cup. Picture: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

They had to work for it, but the Proteas maintained their composure in challenging conditions last night as they held themselves together to wrap up a relatively comfortable six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in their first match of the T20 World Cup in New York.

Playing in an unfamiliar setting at the newly built Nassau County Stadium, the SA team were set a target of 78 runs to win in a low-scoring game, and they found themselves in early trouble at 23/2 in the fifth over.

Unlike their opponents, however, who had also failed to take advantage of the powerplay, the South Africans managed to hold on to wickets.

Opening batter Quinton de Kock stabilised the innings with a patient 20-run contribution off 27 balls, and while he was caught and bowled after chipping the ball back to Sri Lanka captain Wanindu Hasaranga in the 11th over, he guided his team to 51/3.

Once he had fallen, experienced middle-order batter Heinrich Klaasen (19 not out from 22 deliveries) carried the Proteas across the line as they reached 80/4 with 22 balls to spare.

Sri Lanka innings

Earlier, after winning the toss and choosing to bat, Sri Lanka’s line-up had been strangled by the Proteas attack, which was spearheaded by fast bowler Anrich Nortje.

The Sri Lankans got off to a bumpy start, restricted to 24/1 in the powerplay, as the former T20 World Cup champions struggled to find any early momentum.

And that was just the beginning of their troubles. They lost wickets at regular intervals and never really managed to pick up the pace, with Angelo Mathews hitting the first six of their innings in the 13th over.

Opener Kusal Mendis top-scored for his side with 19 runs off 30 balls, and he was one of only three batters to reach double figures, as they were bundled out for 77 runs in the final over of their innings.

Bowlers stand up

It was a spectacular performance from the SA bowlers after questions had been raised about their form and fitness in the build-up to the tournament.

Nortje played a key role, returning career-best T20 figures of 4/7, while fellow speedster Kagiso Rabada (2/21) and spinner Keshav Maharaj (2/22) also joined the hunt as they laid the foundation for their side’s eventual victory.

After making a winning start to the World Cup tournament, South Africa will face the Netherlands in their next Group D match in New York on Saturday.

The Citizen / Wesley Botton