• News wrap from SL: 21 July

    Amla and Steyn fondly reflect on South Africa’s first Test win in Galle, despite Philander’s ball-tampering incident.

    Hashim Amla was understandably a happy man following the Proteas 153-run victory in the first Test. It was his first match in charge and everything from the toss to the result fell into place for the new skipper.

    ‘We had a really good game,’ said Amla. ‘The batting really set it up in the first innings, it would have been quite difficult to bat last here on this wicket. The way that the bowlers rallied around worked out really well.’

    One of the main talking points going into the final day was Amla’s declaration, setting Sri Lanka 370 to win with four sessions to bat. It was brave and ensured that the match would see a result one way or the other.

    ‘Naturally the thought was there that we could lose the game,’ he admitted. ‘The uncertainty is the exciting part about it. If we lost the game I wouldn’t have any regrets about declaring at 370.

    ‘I wanted to have as many overs to bowl to win the game. It’s not easy batting last on this wicket and I just wanted to get as many overs as possible, if you lose the game so be it.’

    Dale Steyn turned in another man-of-the-match performance. His figures of 9-99 led the attack to a memorable victory in difficult conditions. Amla singled out Steyn’s contribution as a special one.

    ‘His figures speak for themselves. He bowled excellently, the lengths, pace and aggression was superb. It was a great performance from a great leader of our attack.’

    Steyn, however, was more concerned with what the team had managed to achieve.

    ‘I’m happy with these figures,’ said Steyn. ‘To be totally honest, I’m just happy that we won this cricket game. Its tough to come and play cricket here in Sri Lanka so to have done something to help the team win is great, but I’m just happy we won.’

    The one negative aspect to come out of the Test, which may have slightly taken the gloss off a stunning win, was the ball-tampering incident involving Vernon Philander. The opening bowler was seen scratching the ball with his fingers and thumb in the afternoon session of the third day.

    The incident was not shown on air until 48 hours after it occurred. A source in the broadcasting circle told ESPNcricinfo, ‘CSA big-wigs made it clear they would not be happy if we showed the incident.’

    When the issue was put to Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, his answer was diplomatic. It’s clear that he wasn’t happy about Philander’s actions, but was careful to avoid labelling his opposition cheaters.

    ‘It’s unfortunate when someone tampers with the ball,’ said Mathews. If they tamper with the ball, they get the better of it. I think the umpires need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’

    ‘It’s not within the laws. You can’t tamper with the ball. It’s the umpires’ decision and they need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’

    Even though he didn’t explicitly say that the tampering had an affect on the result, he noted there was more reverse swing on the third afternoon than there was on the final day.

    Steyn answered in a different manner when asked if the ball-tampering charge blighted the victory.

    ‘I don’t really think about that,’ said Steyn. ‘I think tomorrow morning in the papers it will say that we won this game regardless, so I don’t know what to say about that.’

    Photo: Backpagepix

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