Cuttack: Dane van Niekerk's all-round performance helped South Africa trounce Sri Lanka by 110 runs and register their first win in the Super Six stage of the ICC Women's World Cup here on Wednesday.
A combination of poor shot selection and temperament saw Sri Lanka make a mess of their chase of 228, with only Chamari Athapaththu offering some resistance with an elegant 63. With just one other batter in Sandamali Dolawatte (21), getting to double figures, the chase was as good as over even before Sri Lanka had reached the half way mark at the Barabati Stadium.
After a listless batting display against England, South Africa raised their game to post a competitive 227 for 8 in 50 overs after being asked to bat. The revival was led by Shandre Fritz (64) and Cri-Zelda Brits (52), who struck aggressive half-centuries, after South Africa crawled to 67 for three in the 24th over.
Brits and Fritz put on 70 for the fourth wicket to bring some stability to the innings and allow the luxury of launching a final onslaught. Van Niekerk too played her part, contributing a fine 38-ball 40 to help South Africa cross 200. She took four wickets also.
Mignon du Preez led the recovery with a patient 37, but it was Brits who provided the momentum with some towering sixes. She was also helped by some sensible batting from Fritz, who was more than happy to just rotate the strike.
Brits's decision to attack the spinners caught Sri Lanka off guard. She smashed four fours and three sixes including a huge one over deep mid-wicket to get to her fifty. Van Niekerk then smashed six fours and held her own with the lower order after the dismissal of Fritz to get South Africa to a decent total. Chamani Seneviratna was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers with three wickets.
Sri Lanka's inexperienced top-order was exposed by Shabnim Ismail in the third over itself, with Lasanthi Madushani (1), playing in her first game of the tournament, squared up to be clean bowled by a superb outswinger. But the innings appeared to be gaining some sort of purpose as Deepika Rasangika (9) played second fiddle to Athapaththu, who played some gorgeous strokes to keep the runs ticking along.
That is when van Niekerk announced herself with some teasing legspin bowling. She had Rasangika chip one to du Preez at midwicket to start the slide. Dilani Manodara (1) followed in the next over as Sri Lanka slipped to 43 for 3 in the 13th over.
Dolawatte set about doing the repair work in the company of Athapaththu. The two put on 61 for the fourth wicket to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt but a terrible mix-up saw Athapaththu depart in the 30th over to induce panic in the Sri Lankan ranks. It turned out to be a blow from which they could not recover.