South Africa’s pace attack blew Sri Lanka away before tea on day five in Galle to win the first Test by 153 runs.
Dale Steyn picked up where he left off after the lunch break, getting rid of Dilruwan Perera for a duck. Quinton de Kock completed a comfortable catch behind the wicket to leave Sri Lanka on 161-7.
Rangana Herath joined Angelo Mathews at the crease. He decided to have a bit of fun and scored a quick 20 before trying to sweep JP Duminy out of the rough. The ball turned and bounced, catching the top edge, and looping to AB de Villiers on the leg-side. Sri Lanka fell to 190-8 as Suranga Lakmal strode to the wicket.
Sri Lanka went to drinks on 207-8. Every interval during the day had produced a wicket soon afterwards, and the trend continued. Morne Morkel came around the wicket and directed a short delivery at Lakmal’s ribs. The tail-ender swung it down to fine-leg where he was caught by Imran Tahir.
Shaminda Eranga walked to crease with eight stitches in his hand. He lasted just one Morkel delivery, which he looped in to the air to short-leg. Dean Elgar took a simple catch to dismiss Sri Lanka for 216.
After a few murmurs that Hashim Amla had made a mistake with the declaration by giving Sri Lanka a chance, the bowlers vindicated his decision on day five. They took 9-106 to dismiss the hosts and claim a memorable victory, their first in Galle.
Earlier in the day, the Proteas took five wickets in the first session of the final day to put themselves in control of the match. The players took to the field on the final morning with the Test delicately poised. Sri Lanka trailed by 260 runs, with nine wickets in hand.
Amla started with the tried and tested combination of Morkel and Steyn. The pair hit their straps immediately and it wasn’t long before Steyn Drew Kausal Silva forward and found the edge. De Kock completed an athletic one-handed catch to see the back of Silva for 38.
De Kock then went from hero to villain in a matter of minutes. Morkel nicked off Kumar Sangakkara, on 65 at the time, and the keeper dropped a regulation chance. The Sri Lankan No 3 is unquestionably their best player and that could have been the moment that tilted the Test.
The Morkel-De Kock combination rectified their mistake with the first delivery after the morning drinks break to get rid of Mahela Jayawardene for 10. Lahiru Thirimane joined Sangakkara at the crease and the two started to rebuild cautiously.
The big moment in the morning session came off Duminy’s first delivery of the day. He bowled a rank long-hop and Sangakkara, in a defensive mindset, pulled it straight into the safe hands of Amla at mid-wicket. Sri Lanka slumped to 149-4, handing control of the match to the Proteas.
Amla, smelling blood, brought Steyn back into the attack just before the lunch break. The decision immediately yielded rich dividends as Thirimane’s edge was found, with De Villiers completing a good low catch at second slip. Sri Lanka were reduced to 153-5 with their last recognised pair of Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal at the crease.
The hosts were in disarray and Chandimal was the next to go. He attempted to pull a Morkel delivery, but only succeeded in getting a glove down the leg-side which De Kock snaffled. At 158-6, the fate of Sri Lanka once again rested on Mathews’ shoulders.
South Africa marched into lunch having broken the back of the Sri Lankan challenge. The hosts were teetering at 161-6, still requiring 210 runs for victory. The Proteas needed just four wickets to wrap up a well deserved win.
Report compiled by Gareth Stevens.