In 134 Tests, Kumar Sangakkara met South Africa on 17 occasions, including his debut in 2000, but he saved some of his finest innings for the Proteas.
Against South Africa, he scored 1 534 runs at 47.93 with a top score of 287, including three hundreds and seven fifties. More than one-third of those runs came in two innings.
Overall, he scored 12 400, the most by any left-handed batsman in history. Sangakkara’s tally is also the fifth-highest of all time. Only Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar have registered more runs. Here we pay tribute to his five finest Test innings against South Africa…
286 Colombo 2006
For a moment, we will ignore the role played by Mahela Jayawardene, who scored 374. Sangakkara contributed 286 to a stand of 624 for the third wicket, beating the largest partnership for any wicket in first-class cricket, anywhere, ever by 47 runs. South Africa had their chances: Sangakkara was dropped in the gully, and bowled by a no-ball. They had overtaken South Africa’s paltry offering by the end of day one, but if that was bad enough, the next day was torture. They batted with metronomic efficiency throughout the day and into the third. The stand finally ended when Sangakkara chased a wide reverse-swinging delivery from Andrew Hall and was caught behind for 287, made from 457 balls in 675 minutes, with 35 fours.
232 Colombo 2004
Sangakkara’s sixth Test hundred was a superb effort and formed the platform for Sri Lanka’s dominance. Together with Jayawardene he added 192 for the third wicket, when his partner was bowled. Again, South Africa had their chance, missing Sangakkara on 57 when Jacques Kallis grassed a regulation slip catch off Shaun Pollock. Sangakkara was so certain the edge would be caught he had started walking, but a call from his partner made him turn on his heels and resume his innings. He reached his third Test double-hundred on day two, sprinting the three runs that took him from 198 to 201 as if to underline Sri Lanka’s positive intent. In all he batted for 529 minutes, faced 357 balls and hit 31 fours and a swept six off Boje before edging to Kallis off Pollock again, 175 runs too late.
108 Durban 2011
Sangakkara once again delivered at a time when Sri Lanka needed it the most. Even with a healthy lead from the first Innings, Sri Lanka were precariously poised at 44-3. He made up for his first-innings duck in style, but thanks to a dropped catch by Graeme Smith in the slips when he was on three. After shrugging off the aggression of the bowlers he combined with Samaraweera and Chandimal, cutting and driving with elegance to register his 28th Test hundred and first in South Africa, and soon after pushed Sri Lanka’s lead over 400. It was Sri Lanka’s first Test win in South Africa.
98 Centurion 2001
This was a rollover victory for South Africa in Sri Lanka’s early years, but it gave a glimpse of what was to come from the great Sangakkara. After an innings of 119, in which Sangakkara scored three, the visitors were invited to follow on 259 behind. Sangakkara was promoted to open and responded by batting throughout for a fine, defiant 98. While he and Arnold were adding 113, South Africans had a glimpse of Sri Lankan batting at its best. After five and three-quarter hours, when it looked as if South Africa might have to bat again, Sangakkara was trapped by a skidder from Makhaya Ntini. A maiden century was the least he deserved .
89 Centurion 2002
Sril Lanka had put up a decent fight in the first innings, running up 323, thanks to Hashan Tillakaratne’s century. Sangakkara scored only 35 in that one, but he stood up to be counted as the second innings fell apart. Sangakkara dominated the fourth afternoon adding 119 in 34 overs with Mahela Jayawardene. They were rattling along so fluently that they twice declined offers of bad light. That proved his undoing, snared down the leg side by Ntini moments before the rain came down and flooded the ground. His 89 off 132 balls included 15 fours.
Compiled by Mark Salter