Theunis de Bruyn’s maiden Test ton was in vain as Sri Lanka claimed a 199-run victory to seal the series 2-0.
The Proteas started day four believing that they could pull off a typical South African fightback.
They ended day three with a total of 139-5 and 351 runs behind with De Bruyn (45) and Temba Bavuma (14) hopeful that they could stall what seemed to be an inevitable defeat.
The pair looked comfortable at the crease. They remained determined and stuck to what had worked for De Bruyn on day three – defending with caution and trusting the occasional sweep – as they gnawed away at the huge target set by the Sri Lankans.
De Bruyn was sublime at the crease as he anchored the Proteas’ chase. He went to his half-century off 118 balls, with Bavuma hot on his heels, the latter taking just 69 balls (with three fours) to register his 11th Test fifty. What made their innings sweeter was that both batters were under pressure heading into the series and would have felt under pressure to solidify their positions in the lineup.
The pair continued to impress. They batted throughout the first session, stringing together a partnership of 123 runs before Sri Lanka struck twice shortly before lunch, Rangana Herath providing the breakthroughs. The bowler first drew Bavuma forward and the batsman found a faint edge to the keeper.
Quinton de Kock reverse-swept his first delivery for four, but with his score on eight Herath trapped him leg before just two balls away from the lunch break to a ball that was adjudged to be narrowly clipping the leg-stumps.
The Proteas went into the lunch break with De Bruyn on 85 and the team on 246-7, trailing by 244 runs.
Kagiso Rabada was incredible after the break. With a maiden century looming for De Bruyn, Rabada played with confidence and class, hitting two fours and a six, yet still protecting his wicket with incredible defensive awareness to ease the pressure on his partner.
De Bruyn reached his century in phenomenal fashion, sliding a sweep around the corner to reach his 100 off 228 balls. Valiant though his efforts had been, it was not enough as Herath crushed the Proteas’ hopes just three balls later when he took the centurion’s scalp. Herath pitched a delivery tantalisingly outside off, De Bruyn was drawn to the ball which spun in and crashed into his off-stump.
The value of the contributions of De Bruyn and Bavuma cannot be overstated. De Bruyn equalled the highest individual Test score by a South African batting in the fourth innings of a Test in Asia (Jonty Rhodes’ 101 not out in 1993 pipping him to top spot), while Bavuma’s 63 was the fourth highest score on that same list, after Graeme Smith’s 74 in 2004.
Rabada was dismissed shortly after on 18 off 37 balls after he pushed at a length delivery from Perera that he succeeded only in edging to Angelo Mathews at slip.
With the last pair in it was only a matter of time before Sri Lanka wrapped up the match. Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi went after the Sri Lanka bowlers, hitting a six and four respectively, before Steyn skied a stock delivery from Herath in a bold attempt to clear the boundary. Roshen Silva took a simple catch in the deep to seal the match, along with the series 2-0 for Sri Lanka.
Herath finished with 6-98 – his 34th five-wicket haul – as Sri Lanka sealed a comprehensive victory.
Sri Lanka (second innings) 275-5d – Dimuth Karunaratne 85, Danushka Gunathilaka 61, Angelo Mathews 71, Keshav Maharaj 3-154, Lungi Ngidi 1-9
South Africa (second innings) – Theunis de Bruyn 101, Temba Bavuma 63, Rangana Herath 6-98.
Sri Lanka win by 199 runs.
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