Kyle Abbott took two crucial wickets on day five to help South Africa crush Sri Lanka by 206 runs in the first Test at St George’s Park.
The Proteas should be pleased with what was a dominant performance in Port Elizabeth. Opening batsmen Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar fired to produce partnerships in excess of 100 runs in each of South Africa’s innings. Vernon Philander was at his best on a seaming deck in Sri Lanka’s first innings, claiming 5-45, while Abbott, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj were all among the wickets in the second dig.
It was Abbott who landed the decisive blow on day five. Cook – who was named Man of the Match for his 59 and 117 – and the South African batsmen took the game away from Sri Lanka with their performances in the second innings, and Faf du Plessis insisted on batting into day four before declaring. Sri Lanka were never going to chase down a target of 488, even if they had five-and-a-half sessions to do so.
The South African bowlers were made to work for their wickets in the second innings. After 83 overs on day four, Sri Lanka were five wickets down.
Abbott struck in the fourth over on day five. Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews was given out lbw, and a review only served to confirm the fact.
Four overs later, Abbott had his second victim. Dhananjaya de Silva survived an lbw shout late on day four, but was out of luck when he missed another straight delivery by Abbott early on day five.
The Proteas were into the tail, and Philander dismissed Rangana Herath with an athletic catch off his own bowling. It wasn’t long before South Africa claimed the remaining wickets. Sri Lanka lasted for a total of 70 minutes on day five before slumping to defeat.
Sri Lanka may take consolation from the fact that they scored 281 runs in the fourth innings. In doing so, they recorded the highest fourth innings total at St George’s Park.
Du Plessis and the Proteas brains trust will feel that the decision to bat on in the second innings was justified. At the time, many experts pointed to the previous record of 273 and stated that a lead of 300 or 350 would have been sufficient. South Africa made sure of their position by stretching their lead to 488.
South Africa have taken a 1-0 lead in the series. On the basis of the performance at St George’s Park, they should be favourites in the second clash at Newlands, which begins on 2 January.
SA 1st innings 286 – Duminy 63, Cook 59, Lakmal 5-63, Herath 2-48
SL 1st innings 205 – De Silva 43, Mathews 39, Philander 5-45, Abbott 3-63,
SA 2nd innings 406-6 declared – Cook 117, De Kock 69, Du Plessis 67 not out, De Silva 2-91
SL 2nd innings 281– Mathews 59, Mendis 58, Rabada 3-77, Maharaj 3-86
South Africa won by 206 runs