The Momentum Proteas women came back from consecutive losses to convincingly win their last match of the Super Sixes round of the ICC Women's World Cup 2013 by 110 runs when they faced Sri Lanka in Cuttack on Wednesday.
It was a bitter-sweet victory for captain, Mignon du Preez because South Africa can no longer fight for a place in the top four. She was nevertheless very proud of the manner in which her side picked themselves up from defeat to win by such a significant margin against a Sri Lankan team that has shone throughout the tournament.
"It would have been nice to get into the top four but unfortunately we didn't play those games to the best of our abilities and will have to settle for a chance at taking the fifth spot in the Reliance rankings," she said. "I'm proud of the way the team fought for this and bounced back from two disappointing losses, as a captain, I can't have asked for a better come back."
Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to field first, promptly taking the wicket of Trisha Chetty at the beginning of the third over for a single run. Yolandi Potgieter (4) followed in the 12th over, ending her 20-run partnership with Du Preez (37). The skipper shared a 43-run partnership with her predecessor, Cri-Zelda Brits, before she was dismissed by Chamani Senevirathne.
Brits (52) and Shandré Fritz (64) were the pick of the batters, scoring half centuries that propelled South Africa to a competitive score of 227/8 with Senevirathne returning figures of 3/44 at the end of her ten-over spell.
A target of 228 was always going to be a challenge for Sri Lanka on a wicket that turned sticky due to overcast conditions that saw the pitch drying out much slower than in previous matches. Shabnim Ismail opened the South African wicket account in the third over when she bowled Lasanthi Madushani for one.
Much like their opponents, it took eight more overs before a breakthrough came along, this time thanks to Player of the Match, Dané van Niekerk who removed Deepika Rasangika for nine.
The bowlers took turns breaking wickets at important intervals and sharp fielding made it difficult for batters to establish partnerships, the highest of which was the fourth wicket partnership of Chamari Athapaththu (63) and Sandamali Dolawatta (21). Van Niekerk returned with South Africa's best bowling figures of 4/18 in seven overs to earn her the well deserved accolade.
South Africa won with 13.2 overs to spare.
It is not over, however, for the two sides. They will meet once more on Friday in a match that will decide the team taking the fifth and sixth place in the competition. Although the competition did not go as planned, coach Hilton Moreeng is proud of the gritty performance his side gave today.
"It's not how you lose, but how you come back," he said. "After a heart-wrenching loss against the West Indies, I am very proud of the dog fight that I saw in the team today. They played with real professionalism and focus today and it's a performance we know we will need to polish and recreate for Friday's game if we want to finish in the best possible position."