CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - World number one Sri Lanka held their nerve in the final overs to pull off a narrow five-run victory over South Africa in the World T20 tournament at Chittagong yesterday.
Left-handed opener Kusal Perera hit a brilliant 40-ball 61 to lift Sri Lanka, who won the toss, to 7-165 before restricting South Africa to 160-5.
The victory gave Sri Lanka an ideal start to the group one campaign in the Super-10 stage at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium.
South Africa needed 15 off the final over but Lasith Malinga kept a tight line and despite a last ball six by tail-ender Imran Tahir, Sri Lanka carried the day.
South Africa were given a flying 32-run start by Quinton de Kock (25) and Hashim Amla (23).
Jean-Paul Duminy (39) and AB De Villiers (24) hit Ajantha Mendis out of the attack with 22 runs in his first two overs but both departed within nine runs to give Sri Lanka the edge.
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal praised Perera and the death bowling.
"Everyone is over the moon," said Chandimal. "I am full of beans again. Kusal hit some good boundaries to get us a good start and Mathews finished it off well. Our death bowling with Lasith (Malinga) was very good."
South Africa skipper de Villiers, replacing injured captain Faf du Plessis, rued their loss of wickets at regular intervals.
"We lost wickets at crucial time and that stopped the momentum," said De Villiers. "We weren't good enough."
Earlier, Perera and Mathews gave Sri Lanka total some stability.
Perera hit six boundaries and three towering sixes before leg-spinner Imran Tahir pulled back the scoring rate by taking 3-26 in his four overs.
Mathews gave the final touches to the innings by hitting three boundaries and a six to help Sri Lanka add 45 in the last five overs.
Paceman Dale Steyn, declared fit after recovering from a hamstring injury, finished with 2-37 while fellow pacer Morne Morkel grabbed 2-31.