With all the negativity surrounding the first Test against Sri Lanka, we draw five positives from the 278-run defeat.
Dale Steyn reaches 421
Great news for the Proteas is that Dale Steyn lasted two full innings for the Proteas. He wasn’t back to his sparkling best but managed to take the two wickets he needed to draw level with Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker.
Steyn had a jaded start to the Test but gradually built momentum and rhythm, pushing the 140km/h mark consistently. With uninterrupted game time, the Phalaborwa Express could near full steam soon. Watch out when he does, Sri Lanka!
Kagiso Rabada is king on any surface.
The Galle track was described as low, slow and dry. This drove Sri Lanka to select three spinners and only one specialist seamer. The track was not conducive for seam, which left Steyn and Vernon Philander exposed in the first session on day one. Rabada, however, was not deterred by the seamer-unfriendly conditions and proved to be a consistent threat in both innings.
KG reached his 150th Test wicket in only his 31st Test to become the third-fastest South African to the milestone in terms of Tests played and, at 23, he became the youngest South African to achieve 150 Test wickets. What was extraordinary about Rabada’s performance was how quickly he assessed the conditions and adapted his gameplan in his favour.
The Proteas’ humiliating defeat exposed their frailties and their lack of a gameplan against spin was unequivocal. There is nowhere for Ottis Gibson and the Proteas to hide and serious work needs to go into their preparations for the second Test. The Sri Lanka spin trio was at their best in the first Test, taking 17 of the 20 South African wickets on offer, so the Proteas desperately need to learn how to conquer spin in Sri Lanka. Experience is a great teacher, and this defeat gave the Proteas the chance to finally play on spinning wickets in Sri Lanka (see Faf blasts Sri Lanka pitches), as well as having some active duty against their spin trio.
Faf du Plessis’ 49
Faf du Plessis’ performance in the first innings displayed exactly how the Proteas should have approached their batting in this Test. He executed the battle of patience to perfection with a solid defence in an attempt to lure out Sri Lanka’s only speedster. The problem was that they only knuckled down to Test-style batting when they found themselves six down for 51 runs.
Tabraiz Shamsi’s decent second debut
This could have been described as the left-arm chinaman’s second debut, as his only other Test came against Australia in Adelaide in 2016. His performance at Galle was decent, taking four wickets in the match – the same number as Keshav Maharaj – which gave Du Plessis a valuable extra wicket-taking spin option.
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