AB DE VILLIERS led from the front with a blistering innings of 30 from just 13 balls as the Proteas thrashed hosts Sri Lanka by a barely credible 32 runs when their final Group C match of the ICC World T20 was reduced to just seven overs per side in Hambantota on Saturday.
The Proteas posted a formidable total of 78-4 and restricted Sri Lanka’s reply to a modest 46-5.
A prolonged downpour of monsoon proportions threatened to wash the game out completely but the covers were finally removed and the ground declared fit to play just 20 minutes before the final cut off point.
Mahela Jayawrdene asked South Africa to bat first and Hashim Amla gave them the perfect start with a trio of cover driven boundaries against local hero Lasith Malinga during an innings of 16 from just nine balls.
But it was De Villiers’ assault on the same bowler which really stole the momentum, a hooked six off a slower-ball bouncer travelling over 100 metres and silencing the 30 000 strong capacity crowd.
Faf du Plessis was included as an extra batsman in the starting XI in place of Robin Peterson in the only change from the team which beat Zimbabwe by 10 wickets on Thursday and he responded with an innings of 13 from 11 balls which almost disguised his far more significant contribution as a supreme runner between the wickets. His speed could easily have earned the Proteas an extra 10 runs, a windfall in such a shortened game.
J-P Duminy concluded the innings with a six to finish unbeaten on 12 from just five deliveries.
Any chance of a home victory was ended almost immediately when Morne Morkel conceded just five runs from the opening over and Dale Steyn followed up with an over costing just three and including the prized wicket of Jayawardene.
Morkel’s two overs cost just nine runs while Steyn finished with 2-10 in his brace.
“We were always expecting a shortened game and we were up for the contest right from the first ball,” said man-of-the-match De Villiers. “Sri Lanka probably weren’t at their best but we didn’t allow them to be. It was only a seven-over match but a win is a win and there are a lot of things for us to feel pleased with. We did a lot of the things well and the bowlers, in particular, were superb.”
The result makes no difference to the Proteas’ place in the Super Eight stage of the tournament in which, barring a huge upset, they will play Pakistan in Colombo on Friday.