LONDON: Back to back strikes by South African bowlers have slowed down the momentum of Sri Lankan batting.
Timely wickets from Imran Tahir has made South Africa favourites to win the match as spinner Imran Tahir`s three-for has left the Sri Lankan team reeling in the 300-run chase.
Tahir took the wickets of Upul Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera and Asela Gunaratne.
Earlier, a fine century from former captain Hashim Amla helped South Africa to post 299 for six in their opening Champions Trophy fixture against Sri Lanka at The Oval on Saturday.
The 34-year-old is the fastest batsman to 25 centuries having achieved the milestone in his 151st innings. It was his fifth ODI hundred against Sri Lanka.
South Africa were slow out of the blocks after being put in to bat in overcast conditions.
There were no boundaries in the first six overs and Sri Lanka — who suffered a huge blow before the start of play when captain Angelo Mathews was ruled out of the game with a calf strain — contained the world´s number one ranked team to 32 runs in the first 10 overs.
Fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, who came on as first change, provided the breakthrough when Quinton de Kock was caught behind for 23.
However, South Africa then made hay as Amla and Francois du Plessis added 145 runs for the second wicket — Lasith Malinga costing his side dear when he dropped Du Plessis at long-leg when he was on eight.
The stand was broken when Du Plessis was spectacularly caught by Dinesh Chandimal at short mid-wicket for 75 as Pradeep came on for a fresh spell.
Du Plessis faced 70 deliveries and hit six fours.
Amla reached his half-century off 53 balls and brought up his 25th century in ODI cricket in 112 balls with a single to square leg off Suranga Lakmal.
But the 34-year-old was run out in the next over after reaching three figures when he attempted a second run having turned Asela Gunaratne to mid-wicket and Kusal Mendis´ accurate throw found him short of his crease.
Amla hit just five fours and two sixes for his 103 and faced 115 deliveries.
Chris Morris and J.P. Duminy injected some late momentum as they added 45 runs for the sixth wicket off 32 deliveries.
The stand was broken when Morris was run out by a direct hit from Upul Tharanga fielding at mid-off.
Duminy finished things off in style, smashing Pradeep for a six in the last ball. He was 38 not out off 29 deliveries.
While hosts England successfully chased 306 in the curtain-raiser of the competition on Thursday against Bangladesh at the same venue, Sri Lanka´s batsmen will face a tougher challenge as this match is being played on a different surface, where the ball was slow off the pitch.
“But we´re still humble at the same time and know that we have to work hard and take it one step at a time to win this,” he added.
Sri Lanka head into the tournament as underdogs and one of the key reasons they´ve struggled in recent months has been the absence of fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who hasn´t played any ODI cricket since November 2015 due to a knee injury.
The return of Malinga, whose unorthodox, slingshot action makes him one of the most difficult bowlers to face in world cricket, would be a massive boost for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka skipper and all-rounder Angelo Mathews has been forced to sit out during South Africa match, after scans revealed some days ago he´d suffered a calf strain.