Following a superb opening stand of 85 off 11.1 overs between Sanath Jayasuriya (36) and Romesh Kalwitharana (33), Sri Lanka lost their way in the middle with the dismissals of Aravinda de Silva for 12 and Mahela Jayewardene for five. But skipper Arjuna Ranatunga played a captain's knock of 58 off 91 balls with three fours to steer his side past the 250-run mark.
However, Sri Lanka might find themselves guilty of not scoring many more runs having got themselves all out with 15 balls remaining. Throughout their innings Sri Lanka mantained a healthy run rate of well over fiver runs an over despite the fall of wickets at the other end.
Ranatunga found good support from Marvan Atapattu who made 40 stylish runs off 60 balls before being given out stumped by wicket-keeper Mark Boucher off Pat Symcox. Atapattu failed to get his back foot inside the popping crease when he attempted a drive and was ruled out.
Atapattu and Ranatunga put on 80 for the fourth wicket off 17 overs, but the rest of the Sri Lanka batting was disappointing, after South Africa had won the toss and inserted them first under overcast conditions.
Allan Donald struck two vital blows for South Africa in his first spell of five overs which cost 27 runs, getting the wickets of Jayasuriya and De Silva. Shaun Pollock who had a bad first spell, came back towards the tailend to wrap up the Sri Lanka innings with a burst of three wickets for 11 runs off 13 balls.
Jayasuriya was declared fit on the morning of the match and Sri Lanka left out Hashan Tillekeratne in preference to Mahela Jayewardene.
Roaring start for Sri Lanka in triangular
Cronje warns England of impending disaster ...
NOTTINGHAM, August 14 - South African captain Hansie Cronje warned England that they would be in trouble against world champs Sri Lanka, if they don't take early wickets and bowl well, after his team were beaten by 57 runs in the opening match of the Emirates triangular tournament here today.
England take on Sri Lanka in the second match of the competition at Lord's on Sunday.
``I think it is important for England to bowl well because Sri Lanka obviously set the pace right from the start, and allows the De Silvas, the Ranatungas and the Atapattus to come in and just play at a run a ball to take them through,'' said Cronje.
``If you can get de Silva and Ranatunga to play a little bit more riskily, then you've got a chance. The key to it for England is to take early wickets, otherwise they will be in trouble. England's tail is up at the moment, but I wouldn't want to put my money on any side, because I am not a gambling man,'' said Cronje.
``It's strange, I thought conditions here wouldn't suit Sri Lanka with the white ball getting that much bounce on the wickets. I probably would have said nine times out of ten I will fancy our chances over here, but Sri Lanka certainly proved they can play under any circumstances.
``We had exactly the same plans as we had back in South Africa for the two openers. It is good to have plans, but it is another thing to make sure you follow through with them. I don't think we bowled and batted as well as we wanted to. All in all if you look at the scores after 15 overs, that really sums up the game,'' said Cronje.
Sri Lanka were given a flying start by Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana who put on 85 for the first wicket off 11.1 overs, that by the end of 15 overs, the score had rocketed to 102. Comparatively, South Africa were four down for 41 at that stage.
It soon became, 66 for five when Cronje was trapped lbw by off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan for 21. Pat Symcox and Jonty Rhodes made a gallant effort to turn the game around by sharing a 100-run sixth wicket partnership off 97 balls, but the odds were stacked against them. South Africa were eventually dismissed for 201 with an over to spare, to give Sri Lanka two points from the victory which also earned them 10,000 pounds sterling.
Symcox promoted up the order as pinch-hitter could score no faster than 58 off 87 balls with a six and a four, while Rhodes, who has been in excellent form throughout the summer, made 54 off 49 balls with four fours.
Cronje rated Muralitharan (1 for 42) and Kumara Dharmasena (3 for 41), as ``world class one-day bowlers'', and said ``the key to one-day cricket with the new ball swinging around is to bowl the ball in the right place and Pramodya Wickremasinghe did just that''.
In what could be rated as one of his finest bowling spells, Wickremasinghe started off by dismissing Gary Kirsten second ball, with a wide delivery which the batsman dragged onto his stumps. He added the wickets of Jacques Kallis and Mike Rindell, to leave adjudicator Mike Procter with no option, but to pick him as the 1,500 pounds sterling Man-of-the-Match, an award Wickremasinghe is unlikely to forget easily, because it was won on the day of his 27th birthday.
The side was handled brilliantly by vice-captain Aravinda de Silva, whose tactical bowling changes and field placings had the South African batting in disarray. They were never allowed to settle down after the early dismissal of Kirsten, and by cutting off the boundaries, which was so essential to maintain a steady run rate, Sri Lanka only made South Africa's task of reaching the target of 259 that much harder.
Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga, reduced to a mere spectator after hurting his right knee while batting complimented his vice-captain for leading the side to victory.
``It was very important to make a winning start to a tournament of this nature where you have only a single round of matches. De Silva led the side very well, his bowling changes were brilliant. The bowlers backed him up well. It was good to put the feet up and watch the side win,'' said Ranatunga, whose injury is not expected to be a serious one.
He was hit just below the right knee while batting and did not take the field as he found difficulty in putting his weight on the leg. He said that he would be fit for the game against England.
Discussion paid off
``We discussed a lot Thursday of what went wrong in South Africa. We had a long chat with our bowlers and spent about one to one and a half hours with them. It paid off handsomely,'' said Ranatunga. He praised the bowling of Wickremasinghe and said that with this bowling performance, he had silenced his critics.
``When we picked him we knew he was going to be good under these conditions. Even in South Africa he bowled well. He was keen to do well on this particular tour. I am happy that he has come through it well,'' said Ranatunga.
The manner in which the South Africans bowled and fielded, they looked a rather dejected side following their defeats in the last two Tests against England which saw them lose the series 2-1. ``It was important for us to come back and use this tournament to look at possible ways of winning the World Cup. Obviously, we learnt a lot from today, it was disappointing we had to learn it in the way we did. We had a couple of lapses in the field, but we didn't look as fresh as them on the field. They certainly fielded better than us, and also bowled a lot tighter and, with a lot more discipline. All in all they deserved to win,'' said Cronje.
``I think in both games, one against a select XI and this one, we had the opportunity of bowling well with the new ball. But we didn't. We might look at other possibilities upfront like switching the order around and get Allan Donald to open bowling again.
``Extras have seemed to follow us quite a bit on this tour. Our statistics in the one-day games is not good enough. Every time we are 30 runs behind the other side when it comes to chasing. This tournamnt gives the ideal opporutnity to look at both sides and look at the white ball. We have set our minds out to win the tournamnet. I don't think any of the three teams came into this to use it as a practice run to the World Cup. If you look at the South African record throughout the last few years, we don't go to tournaments wanting to lose, we always go to win. Come Tuesday, the guys will be back to their best,'' said Cronje.
South Africa's next game is not until Tuesday against England at Edgbaston. Till then, Cronje said: ``We will probably try and give the blokes three days off and try and get a fresh team. I don't think it would do us any good to have some nets every single day, we probably have come from a big high to a big low very quickly. I think it is time to give the guys a break,'' he said.