Sri Lanka became the first Asian team in history to win a series in South Africa by sealing a 2-0 whitewash victory over the Proteas with an eight-wicket win at St George’s Park. KHALID MOHIDIN reports.
The sound of doleful brass instruments and heavy-hearted singing echoed through an empty St George’s Park stadium as the Proteas’ fate drew near, and sadly, the performance from the Proteas in the field matched the atmosphere.
The Proteas were out-batted and out-bowled in an embarrassing performance culminating in a historic series whitewash for Sri Lanka. This was the Proteas’ first-ever home series defeat to Sri Lanka, and the first time that they have lost consecutive series against Sri Lanka since their defeats in 2004 (1-0) and 2006 (2-0).
Those previous series defeats came against the great Sri Lankan side sporting players of exceptional quality – Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath and Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Now, people will celebrate the names of Sri Lanka’s new generation of heroes: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Oshada Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya and Kasun Rajitha.
Before the start of the series, everything pointed towards a dominant Proteas performance. This assumption was based on how the Proteas dismantled every opponent that had stepped foot on our shores since Ottis Gibson took over – Bangladesh, India, Australia and Pakistan. In fact, the Proteas haven’t lost a series at home since England visited in 2015.
It took a side fielding fresh faces and an exceptional fighting spirit to end the Proteas’ home dominance of seven series wins. Everything went the way of the visitors – from debutants stepping up, star batsmen stepping up at crucial moments, to the dominance by their relatively unknown pace attack.
Sri Lanka were subjugated and roundly defeated in their last three Test series against Australia, New Zealand and England, losing, 2-0, 1-0 and 3-0 respectively. They were expected to face the same fate against a Proteas side in fine form, and on home soil.
Incredibly, it was not to be, as Sri Lanka came into day three of the second Test needing 137 runs for victory (and a 2-0 series whitewash) with just two wickets down.
Day two of the second Test was highlighted by a controlled batting performance from Mendis and Fernando. Mendis, in particular, showed why he was the only player in 2018, other than Virat Kohli, to score 1,000 runs, and he stepped things up at the perfect moment.
Mendis reached his first milestone of the series by bringing up his ninth half-century (84 off 110 balls), and he was partnered by Oshada Fernando (75 off 106 balls), who scored his maiden half-century in an incredible 163-run stand.
This saw Sri Lanka over the line in Dimuth Karunaratne’s first series as captain. The victory saw Sri Lanka break South Africa’s 21-series unbeaten streak against Asian sides that had consisted of 19 series wins and two series draws.
This has knocked the Proteas down to No 3 on the ICC Test rankings.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images