Friday, 20 March 2015 00:00
AB de Villiers is a crowd-pleaser even without bat in hand, South Africa v Sri Lanka, World Cup 2015, 1st quarter-final, Sydney, March 18, 2015 - Getty ImagesReuters: South Africa stormed into the semi-final of the World Cup with a nine wicket victory over Sri Lanka yesterday and Captain AB de Villiers later rated the performance among the best he’d seen.
South Africa dismissed Sri Lanka for 133 and then took just 18 overs to knock off the runs for the loss of one wicket.
de Villiers lauded his spinners for the way they bowled to the Sri Lankans, one of the better batting sides against spin.
Pakistan-born spinner Imran Tahir claimed 4-26 to mow down Sri Lanka’s middle order and JP Duminy notched a hat-trick at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“It’s up there with one of the best I’ve seen,” said de Villiers.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but definitely the most important performance in the most important game to date. We just worked really well today as a bowling unit today, and the fielders backed it up exceptionally well.
“I truly believe that we feel really strong as a unit and confident going into the semifinals. In the other side, or in other breath, it means absolutely nothing. You’re going to have to start over again, and the hard work starts now. Look, we didn’t come all this way to say that we made it to a semifinals of a World Cup. We want to go all the way as a team.”
Asked about accusations South Africa ‘choke’ on the big occasions - the match was their first ever World Cup victory in the knock out stages – deVilliers smiled as he said: “I don’t mind really. I think we liked being called chokers, so we’ll just keep that tag and move along as long as we keep winning.
“We came here to win the World Cup. Our next hurdle is the semifinals and we’ll try to find a way to get over that hurdle. We still have hopefully two games to go. We haven’t won the World Cup yet.
“It was a tough one; never easy to play Sri Lanka, especially in World Cup games. They’re a tough team to beat, so I’m very chuffed with what we’ve achieved, and I’d like us to enjoy this victory tonight and move on tomorrow.”
He praised wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock, who bucked his recent run of poor form with an unbeaten 78 and two catches behind the stumps.
“A lot of credit to the selectors, to the coach, the guys who kept backing him. I think they must have been tempted a few times to let him go and maybe for me to take the gloves, but it was a great call from them to stick with him. He had a fantastic game, took a couple of crucial catches,” said de Villiers.
Pakistan-born Tahir conjured up a special performance for his adopted country and collected the man-of-the-match trophy.
The 15 wickets he has taken in the tournament has made him the most successful South African bowler in the tournament. It also meant his post-wicket celebration of running onto the outfield with outstretched arms has become quite a frequent sight these days.
Tahir denied he rehearsed it.”I don’t practise for that... that’s how I play my cricket,” he told the post-match news conference.”I played a club game in Stoke and I took a very good catch, and I think I ran out of the ground, so they had to always tell me which way is back to the ground. I was on the road, I don’t know where I was,” he added, to roars of laughter from his captain.
Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara bid farewell to limited overs cricket, disappointed with the defeat but happy that Sri Lanka were in a better place than when he came into the side in 2000.
The elegant lefthander scored 45 runs against South Africa to take his tournament tally to 541, including his record four successive centuries, but it never looked like being enough as Sri Lanka were blown away.
“It was just a case of building partnerships, but every time we tried to get something going, there was a wicket falling, and the disappointing thing was that we gave seven wickets to spin when they were a pace dominant attack,” he said.
“We should be disappointed with ourselves the way we played because we just weren’t good enough to get the 250, 260-run score that would have really been difficult to chase on that track.
“I’ve had a great time playing with these boys. Disappointments are a part of our career, and you just take it on the chin and move on,” he added.
The 37-year-old, who will continue playing tests, departs having accumulated 14,234 one-day runs -- second only to Indian great Sachin Tendulkar -- and the greatest number of dismissals by a wicketkeeper.
Sangakkara’s fellow former captain MahelaJayawardene, also 37, is also calling time on his one-day career after the tournament, bringing an end to a career in which he has scored 12,650 runs in 448 matches.”He’s going to be sorely missed,” Sangakkara said.
In the semi-final South Africa will face New Zealand or West Indies in Auckland next Tuesday.