Four runs to win with five wickets remaining and five overs in hand. You expect the batting side to get there without much difficulty with such an equation. Not on a fading afternoon in Guyana. South Africa had one hand on their first points in the Super eight stage after Langeveldt ran through the Sri Lankan lineup reducing them to 213, a below par score on the flat tracks of the Caribbean. Despite losing De Villiers in the first over and a twin strike by Murali later on, South Africa led by Jacques Kallis’ 86, were ambling away to victory as they reached 200/5 at the end of the 44th over.
Lasith Malinga had gone for 37 runs in his first 4 overs including being despatched to the boundary 6 times. He was however brought in for his third spell as South Africa were looking to complete the formalities. Pollock flicked him for another boundary and then ran a couple and the Proteas were only one shot away from victory. Surely there was nothing in it now for the Lankans. Malinga didn’t seem to think so!
He strung together an extraordinary sequence and struck not once, not twice, not even thrice but four times in four balls. The match had taken a 360 degree turn and South Africa were stunned.
It all began with the 5th ball of the 45th over. Pollock was beaten all ends up by a slower ball, slower by Malinga’s standards, as the leg stump was disturbed. In came Andrew Hall and he dug out another yorker but the ball ballooned into the hands of Tharanga at cover. 200/5 had become 206/7. Sri Lanka could dream again!
Vaas bowled the 46th over and conceded only 1 run, a single to Kallis that kept him on strike to face Malinga. The hat-trick ball was full and wide but Kallis went for a square drive and there was a noise on the way to the keeper. The Lankans appealed and Harper raised his finger. Malinga had his hat-trick and South Africa were choking very badly. Ntini, who was relaxing in the dressing room a few minutes back found himself in the thick of action with Malinga on fire. He didn’t last long either as the first ball clattered into his middle stump and Malinga had 4 in 4, the first time ever in the history of ODI Cricket.
He almost had 5 as the next ball to Langeveldt missed the stumps by a whisker. The yorkers kept coming and Langeveldt squirted one to point as Jayasuriya’s misfield allowed them to scamper for a single. 2 to win now! Vaas bowled one of the best maiden overs in World Cup history and allowed Malinga to come on for one last blow.
But the blow wasn’t to come! Peterson poked his bat at another fullish delivery outside off stump. He got a thick edge as the ball raced away to the third man boundary. South Africa had won a thriller but not before the man from the Emerald Isles had given them the scare of a lifetime.