22 September 2012 - 07:41pm IST
by Anand Vasu in Hambantota
If Twenty20 cricket is all about
holding your nerve, it might be fair to say Seven7 is about embracing
uncertainty, keeping the faith, giving it all you’ve got and hoping that your
luck holds. With the first serious rainfall in eight months drenching
Sooriyawewa, South Africa and Sri Lanka had to be content playing seven overs
each, and through the resulting mayhem AB de Villiers led his team to a 32-run
For the first time in three games
at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, the stands were filled
nearly to capacity, and when the skies opened early in the afternoon, with
dark, ominous clouds streaming in from the South West, it was a tribute to the
groundstaff that even this long a game was possible. While there will no doubt
be discussion over whether there’s anything left to play for, or indeed watch,
in a Seven7 match, it seemed cruel to turn away those who had travelled far
without any cricket.
In the event, Mahela Jayawardena
won an important toss – no-one really knew what a good score was in a
seven-over match – and put South Africa in to bat. Ajantha Mendis, hero of the
Sri Lanka’s first match, sat out with a niggling side strain, giving Rangana
Herath a match. South Africa brought Faf du Plessis into the side in place of
Robin Peterson and before everyone could catch their breath properly, the game
got under way at 6pm local time.
Hashim Amla, opening the batting
with Richard Levi, stayed calm, and focussed on lifting the ball over the in-field
in the two-over Power Play. Amla’s decision to look for placement rather than
power worked, and his nine-ball 16 got the innings started in the right manner.
If Amla set the stage, it was AB
de Villiers who took the game away, waiting on the ball, playing it late and
swinging hard. A short ball from Lasith Malinga was thumped so hard over mid-wicket
that even the 100-metre long-boundary was completely inadequate. Choosing his
strokes as carefully as the truncated game allowed, de Villiers muscled his way
to 30 off only 13 balls, with one four and two sixes. The innings lifted South
Africa to 78 for four from seven overs.
Jayawardena prompted himself to
open the innings with Tillakaratne Dilshan, but Sri Lanka got off to the worst
possible start. Jayawardena, after lofting Morne Morkel over cover, drilled a
ball straight to wide mid-off. Stop-start running meant that Dilshan was short,
even after putting in the dive, as de Villiers collected the ball brilliantly
and broke the stumps.
With Dilshan gone before he had a
chance to face a single ball, Sri Lanka needed Jayawardena to press on.
However, Morkel’s extra bounce and Dale Steyn’s late movement at rapid pace
meant that playing and missing was the order of the day. Dilshan Munaweera, who
came in at No. 3, repeatedly failed to connect, and as Jayawardena picked out
the fielder in the deep perfectly, Sri Lanka finished the Power Play overs at
eight for two.
The game was as good as over then,
and much playing and missing ensued as South Africa’s bowlers stuck to their
basics admirably. Sangakkara and Munaweera made 13 each, but with the other
batsmen failing to make it to double figures, Sri Lanka was well short of the
target, and only managed 46 for five from their seven overs.