South Africa win after Sri Lanka dismissed for 77

ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024, Group D, New York

Sri Lanka 77 (19.1 overs): Nortje 4-7, Rabada 2-21, Maharaj 2-22

South Africa 80-4 (16.2 overs): De Kock 20 (27); Hasaranga 2-22

South Africa won by six wickets

Scorecard. Tables

South Africa began their T20 World Cup campaign with a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka as concerns over the New York ground's drop-in pitches came to the fore.

Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 77 – their lowest T20 total – as just three of their batters made double figures, with Kusal Mendis’ 30-ball 19 their top score.

Anrich Nortje took career-best T20 figures of 4-7 for South Africa while Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj picked up two wickets apiece.

Faced with a such low total, South Africa’s batters attempted to play sensibly on a tricky surface as they eked their way to the target with 22 balls to spare.

Quinton de Kock hit one boundary as he top scored with 20 while the normally explosive Tristan Stubbs curbed his attacking instincts with 13 off 28.

Wanindu Hasaranga briefly raised Sri Lanka’s hopes with the wickets of both South Africa batters as he claimed 2-22.

Heinrich Klaasen, who finished 19 not out, got the Proteas over the line alongside David Miller, who hit the winning runs to finish unbeaten on six.

"Coming out here they did a brilliant job to get the field ready," said Klaasen.

"Hopefully the wicket will get a little bit better. It is brand new, which is a big factor."

Pitch worries for cricket’s fairy-tale in New York

The jewel in the crown for the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s American dream for this World Cup is the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium.

There is no doubt the sparkling ground set in the tranquil surrounds of leafy Eisenhower Park, named after the 34th US president, is an eye-catching construction. Albeit a temporary one.

To have pulled everything together in a short timeframe for the tournament is a commendable achievement as the ICC takes steps to popularise the game in the United States.

A crowd of 12,562 watched a historic first World Cup game in New York and, despite the intense security presence, fans – most of whom were from the Sri Lanka diaspora – reported few issues gaining entry.

Rarely were those supporters roused to their feet by what they saw in the middle, though, in what was a spectacle lacking the kind of dazzling strokeplay that could prick the interest of any potential converts to the game.

The largely ponderous nature of the contest has inevitably placed scrutiny on the drop-in pitches being used for the eight fixtures being played here which have been prepared by Adelaide Oval curator Damian Hough.

Six of the trays which transported the soil for the 10 Tahoma grass surfaces came from Australia before being shipped to Florida where the pitches were cultivated.

The soil variety has a high clay content, similar to the pitches in Adelaide.

They were then transported to New York by road and installed a few weeks before the tournament began.

Hough said he had “no fears” about them in advance of the tournament and was hoping for fast and bouncy pitches, but this one was two-paced.

ICC officials were also bragging about the size of the ground before the tournament, but batters could not generate the power to clear the ropes. Pulling the boundaries in might aid matters.

Angelo Mathews hit two sixes but he was one of five Sri Lanka batters who perished caught in the deep. South Africa matched Sri Lanka’s total of three maximums.

By comparison there were 21 sixes in the opener between the USA and Canada in Dallas, where there is a natural turf pitch prepared on site.

There was also inconsistent bounce with Mathews, trundling in at the age of 37 and bowling mid-70mph, getting one to climb off the pitch and hit Aiden Markram in his groin.

A few overs later, Nuwan Thushara and Dasun Shanaka saw deliveries skid through at ankle height.

The slow outfield was not conducive to scoring either. That’s not to take away from the bowlers – Nortje’s control of length was impressive.

It’s still early days for cricket’s New York fairy-tale, but with India against Pakistan here on Sunday, the worry is the biggest game in world cricket might be affected by a stinker of a pitch.

'Don't always need sixes for it to be entertaining' - reaction

South Africa captain Aiden Markram: "There will be lots of different conditions as you move around the tournament.

"We're fortunate that we have our next two here and have a decent idea of how it's going to play but it's important to assess as you move around and come up with plans."

Player of the match, South Africa's Anrich Nortje: "We didn't know what to expect from the pitch, we'd heard one or two rumours about it being up and down.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with the wickets. I thought it was a great day for cricket, you don't always need sixes for it to be entertaining."

Sri Lanka captain Wanindu Hasaranga: "We were hoping for 160-170 but now we know it was more of a 120-130 wicket, especially with our bowlers.

"We wanted to perform a lot better."