A spineless batting performance saw the Proteas skittled for 73 – their lowest innings total since readmission – in a 278-run defeat in the first Test in Galle.
It was an idiotic batting game plan that buried the Proteas. Their top six scored a total of 128 runs over two innings and 31 of those were scored after lunch on day three of the first Test.
The Proteas bowlers would feel let down after they stuck to their mission at the start of day three. They squeezed Sri Lanka early and dismissed them for 190 in their second innings, setting a winning target of 351.
With Sri Lanka resuming on 111-4, Kagiso Rabada starred in the morning session by taking two wickets to become the youngest, at 23, to reach 150 Test wickets, in 31 Tests. This made him the second-fastest behind Dale Steyn (29) since readmission. His finger-tip touch also ran out Roshen Silva.
Keshav Maharaj (4-58) added one wicket to his three overnight, rolling a slider into Angelo Mathews who mistimed his slog sweep as the ball crashed into the stumps.
Tabraiz Shamsi took Sri Lanka’s ninth wicket and Steyn drew level with Shaun Pollock on 421 Test scalps with the dismissal of Lakshan Sandakan. He wrapped up Sri Lanka for 190 before lunch with the Proteas needing 352 runs to win.
After the interval, the Proteas were demolished. They found themselves six wickets down with 36 on the board, halfway into the 16th over.
They proved that they learnt nothing from their first innings collapse, which saw them skittled for 126 – their lowest total in Sri Lanka.
Hashim Amla spoke positively about the Proteas finding their game plan after day two, but actions spoke louder than words as they were slaughtered by Sri Lanka’s spin duo, Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath.
Two dismissals summed up a flawed batting approach. With almost three days to play, Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram danced down the track looking for the straight drive, and were stumped off Perera and Herath respectively.
Amla was bamboozled by Perera’s flight, dip, turn and bounce to go for nought. Drawn forward to defend, he missed the pitch of the ball and found an inside edge on to his pad which looped up and to the left of leg-gully.
Temba Bavuma, too, fell to Perera as his defence failed him and he found an inside edge to leg-slip.
Faf du Plessis reached for a front foot block off the bowling of Herath but found himself nowhere near the pitch of the ball and edged it to slip.
With his side five down with 36 on the board after 15.3 overs, Quinton de Kock – who had attempted to open up and scored two fours – was trapped lbw after a failed slog sweep.
Wickets continued to tumble and the Proteas were nine down for 67 as Perera finished with career-best innings figures of 6-32, while Herath finished with 3-38.
They introduced their third spinner, Lakshan Sandakan, and with their final review overturned an lbw decision from umpire Paul Reiffel to see Shamsi on his way.
This was the Proteas’ lowest score since readmission since being bowled out for 79 by India in Nagpur in 2015.
Sri Lanka (first innings) 287 – Dimuth Karunaratne (157*), Kagiso Rabada 4-50, Tabraiz Shamsi 3-91.
South Africa (first innings) 126 – Faf du Plessis (49), Dilruwan Perera (4-46), Suranga Lakmal (3-21), Rangana Herath (2-34)
Sri Lanka (second innings) 190 – Dimuth Karunaratne 60, Angelo Mathews 35, Keshav Maharaj 4-58, Kagiso Rabada 3-44
South Africa (second innings) 73 – Vernon Philander 22, Aiden Markram 19, Dilruwan Perera 6-32 and Rangana Herath 3-38.
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