Last-over fireworks light up Sharjah as South Africa chase 143
Needing 22 runs from nine balls, Kagiso Rabada and David Miller soaked in the pressure to strike three sixes and a boundary to chase 143 with four wickets and one ball to spare.
It marked a dramatic turnaround for South Africa, who had been pegged back early by a double-strike from Dushmantha Chameera, and then at the death by a hat-trick from Wanindu Hasaranga.
On a Sharjah surface where batters of both teams struggled, Pathum Nissanka held firm with a stroke-filled 72 off 58 to help Sri Lanka post 142. However, it proved insufficient as the Islanders slipped to their second loss in three Super 12 games.
For South Africa, Tabraiz Shamsi, the No.1 bowler on the ICC Men's T20I Rankings, ran through Sri Lanka in the middle overs, finishing with 3/17, while Dwaine Pretorius cleaned them up at the death for 3/17 as well.
South Africa's chase got off to a rocky start. Quinton de Kock, returning for this game, spooned a catch back to Chameera in the very first over, but the bowler had overstepped.
Chameera, though, was soon among the wickets, bowling with good pace. Reeza Hendricks burnt a review in challenging an LBW decision. De Kock was then surprised by a short ball, with Chameera himself calling for the top-edge and doing well to hold on.
The wickets caused the boundaries to dry up. With runs hard to come by, Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen were forced to take some risky runs. While they benefitted from a few overthrows, their luck finally ran out when van der Dussen fell prey to a direct hit from Dasun Shanaka at cover.
Bavuma hit his first four only on the 30th ball he faced. With Aiden Markram bowled by Hasaranga with 47 needed off 30, there was further pressure on him.
He released some of it with a six off Chameera, before Hasaranga struck again to deny him his half-century, with Nissanka plucking a catch at the ropes.
The bowler then had new batter Dwaine Pretorius out first ball, caught in the deep, to complete his hat-trick across two overs.
It was left to Chameera and Lahiru Kumara to deny South Africa the 25 runs they needed in the final two overs.
But when Chameera missed his length slightly, Kagiso Rabada smashed a six over long-off, leaving South Africa 15 to get in the final over.
Kumara too missed his length in the final over, and David Miller heaved him into the stands for back-to-back sixes.
With the scores even, Rabada got a lucky outside edge for four and got South Africa over the line.
Evenly matched Powerplay
Earlier, after Sri Lanka were asked to bat, neither team ran away with the advantage in the Powerplay. South Africa's pacers went for a few runs, but it was also Anrich Nortje who got the first breakthrough.
Kusal Perera, trying a pull shot, was done in by pace and found his middle stump flattened.
At 39/1 in the first six, neither side would have been too disappointed.
Spin twins bowl in tandem
Eight overs of spin in the middle overs denied Sri Lanka any chance to build a partnership, as Keshav Maharaj and Shamsi came on for four-over spells each.
They both afforded South Africa a couple of quiet overs before Nissanka and Charith Asalanka swung hard in Maharaj's second over, sending the ball sailing over midwicket for two sixes in three balls.
However, a run-out at that point against the run of play changed the momentum. The over had already yielded 14 runs when the batters decided to scramble two. Rabada charged in from the ropes and made good ground to put in an excellent throw to the wicketkeeper, catching Asalanka short of his mark.
The very next over, Shamsi took a return catch to send Bhanuka Rajapaksa back without scoring. He then enjoyed a similar dismissal with Avishka Fernando, before Wanindu Hasaranga, who came out with an attacking mindset, holed out in the deep.
Nissanka holds up the innings
Even as wickets fell around him, and he himself survived a stumping appeal, Nissanka held firm to prop up the Sri Lanka innings.
He had done well to target the bad balls for boundaries and brought up his half-century off 46 balls.
Looking to accelerate, he walked across his stumps and smashed a wide ball from Dwaine Pretorius for four over square leg. He then pocketed a leg-side six and four off Rabada, before finishing the over with another boundary through extra cover.
His innings finally came to an end on 72 off 58 balls, caught in the deep from a slower ball from Pretorius.
He was one of four wickets to fall in the final two overs, as Sri Lanka were bowled out on the last ball of the innings.