We take a look at the five times the Proteas visited Sri Lanka for a Test series.
The Proteas’ first Test-series win away:
It was 1993. Two years after the Proteas’ first Test series since readmission against the West Indies. The Proteas had recorded their first Test-series victory since being reinstated as a Test-playing nation, beating India in South Africa 1-0 thereafter.
They would have to wait eight months until they tasted some more Test cricket, which came in unfamiliar sub-continental conditions in Sri Lanka. The Proteas won the series. Recording draws on either side of an emphatic innings and 208-run victory in Colombo, their fifth-largest win in history.
Hansie Cronje and Daryll Cullinan were the Proteas’ top run scorers with 237 runs, while Brett Schultz ended with the most wickets in the series – 20 wickets at 16.30 – which saw him set his career-best innings figures of 5-48 and best match figures of 9-106 in South Africa’s only win in the series. Schultz won Man of the Match for his performance and was helped by a century from Cronje as they recorded their innings victory.
Proteas face Muttiah Muralitharan’s wrath:
The Proteas next trip to Sri Lanka happened only seven years later and they got a full taste of why the sub-continent is known as a spin-bowlers paradise. In a drawn series, Sri Lanka won the first Test by an innings and 15 runs in Galle which saw Muralitharan named Man of the Match. The hosts posted 522 in their first innings thanks to 148 from Sanath Jayasuriya and 167 from Mahela Jayawardene. South Africa failed to chase down the target despite a 114 from Cullinan. Muralitharan took 6-68 as SA were bowled out for 238 and again for 269 as the spinner took 7-84 to complete match figures of 13-171. He took another five in South Africa’s seven-run win in the second Test at Kandy and eight in the draw at Colombo, to top the standings with 26 wickets in the series.
Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, the deadly pair:
The pair topped the standings for the series, almost doubling South Africa’s top-scorer Graeme Smith who finished with 179 runs in the series. It was their double-centuries which stood out as the decider in their 1-0 series victory. Jayawardene (327 runs in the series at 81.75) scored 237 in the sides’ draw at Galle while Sangakkara’s (367 at 91.75) 232 in the decider at Colombo helped the hosts seal a 313-run win.
Sri Lanka whitewashes the Proteas:
For Proteas fans, the less said about this series in 2006 the better. Once again, the deadly Sri Lanka batting pair ran the show. The Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo proved to be a deadly batting surface for Jayawardene and Sangakkara, who set the highest partnership in Test history – 624 for the third wicket. Jayawardene’s 374 in Sri Lanka’s first innings not only helped his side bury the Proteas but also saw him set his career-best score. The 756-5 declared scored was the most runs the Proteas ever conceded in an innings. This came after the visitors were bowled out for 169 and then 434 in their second, to lose by an innings and 153 runs.
The second Test went to the wire. South Africa scored 361 and 311, Sri Lanka scored 321 and 352-9, condemning the Proteas to a one-wicket loss at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. The match was highlighted by 12 wickets from Muralitharan (who finished with 22 wickets in the series), a five-for from Dale Steyn to reduce the hosts to 321 and a century from Jayawardene to help them to their 352-run second-innings total.
Steyn destroys, Amla defends as SA go No 1:
In 2014, the Proteas turned the tables. They beat Sri Lanka 1-0 in a two-Test series. Steyn was unstoppable. He made history as he reached 80 wickets in Asia, the most by any foreign bowler (at the time). His nine wickets in the first Test, coupled with Dean Elgar’s second Test century, helped the Proteas seal a 153-run victory.
The second Test was famous for the Proteas’ stubborn batting. They were in trouble after Jayawardene’s 165 helped his side to 421. The Proteas’ approach was defensive from there on out. Amla faced 382 balls for his 139, followed by the hosts adding 229-8 in the second innings. The Proteas were under the pump heading into the final day but were saved by the rain as they blocked their way to 159-8 to draw the match and secure their No 1 ranking. Amla faced a total of 541 deliveries in the Test to win his first series as captain.
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