South Africa clinch the Test Series
South Africa clinch the Test Series

The first test did produce something unexpected. The pace dependant line up of the mighty Proteas came up with golden colours on a flat track in the first test to cruise them to a victory over the spin-oriented Sri Lankan line up. It was obvious that Sri Lanka would not give up and were bound to come back stronger in the second test at Colombo which commenced from the 24th August. The pitch at Colombo is renowned for its turn and bounce and the turn increases with the progression of the test. So, Sri Lanka had another opportunity but the point was whether they could grab it or not.

Sri Lanka won the toss and their skipper, Angelo Mathews opted to bat first.  Sri Lanka brought back Upul Tharanga in the squad to bring up some reliability in the opening pair but the decision went in vain as the opening pair for Sri Lanka, Upul Tharanga and Kaushal Silva flopped considerably in both the innings.  After an impressive performance in the first test, Steyn did start proceedings well by striking early breakthroughs. But for yet another time, Mahela Jayawardene came up to the team’s need and built a crucial 131-run partnership with Angelo Mathews to rescue Sri Lanka from the onslaught. The partnership was broken by JP Duminy and Mathews departed for 63. But Jayawardene carried on the momentum going and built a great partnership with the debutant wicket keeper, Niroshan Dickwella. Jayawardene completed his 34th test ton and went on to score 165 runs when he was involved in a mix up and was run out. The partnership between him and Dickwella added 100 runs. South African bowlers tightened things up after that and did not provide the Lankan tail-enders to score freely. Sri Lanka were ultimately bundled at 421 runs.

Then it was turn for South Africa’s reply from the second session of Day-2 and they suffered an early setback by losing Alviro Petersen and Dean Elgar early on. They were 2 down for a score of 13 runs just in the 9th over to the innings. It was Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis who had to anchor the innings in order to save South Africa from the spot of bother. They steadied the innings to some extent but their misery was amplified by the dismissal of Du Plessis well before the conclusion of the day’s play. Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers managed to stay at the crease till stumps and prevented any further damage. But the next day was not meant for the South Africans. The pitch answered the spinners and it was the off-spinner, Dilruwan Perera who made the opposition struggle with his turn and bounce.

Amla played a pivotal part in the South African innings but wickets kept falling on the other end. South Africa were bundled at 282 runs and Amla remained unbeaten on 139. Perera grabbed a 5-wicket haul while Herath took 4.

Hashim Amla played brilliantly in both the innings and defended 541 deliveries
Hashim Amla played brilliantly in both the innings and defended 541 deliveries

With a lead of 139 runs, Sri Lanka started their 2nd innings. The hoped to put the lead over a defendable margin and then leave the remaining duty upon the spinners. This time, Sangakkara played a valuable innings while on the other hand, Jayawardene was dismissed for a duck after he scored a ton in the first innings. Again, Mathews came handy in the supporting role and assisted Sangakkara to build up a 81 run partnership with him. Sangakkara was dismissed by a beauty from Morkel at a score of 72 runs. Mathews stayed at the crease and anchored the innings with the lower-middle order and the tail-enders. With chances of rain playing a part in the concluding day of the match, Mathews took quite a decent but aggressive move by declaring the innings at 229 runs and thus a target of 369 runs were put in front of the South Africans.

Mathews scored 63 runs in each of the 2 innings
Mathews scored 63 runs in each of the 2 innings

Sri Lankans pressurized over the South African batsmen right from the start. Alviro Petersen was running through a bad patch off-late and he felt the pressure and gave up his wicket on a duck off 25 balls. But South Africans steadied themselves and did not lose any further wickets till stumps of Day 4. The 5th day’s play was intervened at frequent intervals and rain started playing a spoilsport. There was though a prolonged session of play after lunch and in that the game grew up to be even more exciting.  Neither of De Kock, De Villiers and Elgar was able to stay at the crease for long. Amla made a valiant effort though and scored 25 off 159 deliveries but was dismissed after that. Sri Lanka were heading close to a victory. The spinning duo in the form of Herath and Perera were getting dangerous with the ball. Finally, South Africa came in a position where they had 4 wickets in hand and had to defend over 20 overs. Philander and Duminy were at the crease. But Duminy was dismissed shortly after that. Steyn, after defending quite a number of deliveries followed to the pavilion. Then came in Imran Tahir. Tahir and Philander showed their character and successfully defended over 10 overs to save the test for South Africa. Herath got a 5-wicket haul but could not take his team to victory. The test was thus drawn.

South Africa thus clinch their first test series win in Sri Lanka against Sri Lanka after 1993. They win the 2-match series by 1-0.

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