LONDON • The defining image of this Cricket World Cup game on Friday came in the closing stages of Sri Lanka's innings, when a swarm of bees entered the playing area.
The two batsmen, 11 South Africa players and the umpires fell to the floor and lay prone for a minute or more, like a group of adults being forced to play sleeping lions.
This was indeed a contest between two teams who are down and now, effectively, out of this Cup. A second win for South Africa, completed with 12.4 overs to spare, was mere consolation, admitted their captain Faf du Plessis.
Defeat for Sri Lanka, after Hashim Amla (80) and du Plessis (96) powered the Proteas to a nine-wicket win, prevented them from drawing level with England, most likely ending their chances of reaching the semi-finals.
"It feels bittersweet, it doesn't feel like it means too much," said du Plessis, whose side were already out of contention for the semi-finals before the match.
"But the basics of batting were shown today. We've not had guys bat long and build big partnerships. One big partnership and it looks much easier."
The skipper also saw the lighter side of the bee invasion.
"It is very funny. Looks like someone's just had a machine gun through all the players," he said.
"You are not brave when there is a bee, or a swarm of bees flying. I think I'm brave, but not that brave."
At every World Cup since 1992, at least one of these teams has featured in the last four but the two sides have found themselves in a rebuilding phase at the wrong time.
Sri Lanka were struggling after defeats by New Zealand and Australia and two washouts before reviving their chances with a shock win against hosts England last week. But, with six points from seven games, the 1996 champions have now slipped behind England, Bangladesh and Pakistan in seventh spot in the 10-team table.
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE