Sri Lanka kick about after first win
Tillakaratne Dilshan had a glint of mischief in his eye when he told the media what his team was going to do after they left Kingsmead on Thursday night. "We're going to celebrate!" he said.
And why not? After eight attempts at winning a Test match in South Africa, they had finally done it in smashing style. After being left battered and bruised in Centurion, they came out with more fight than anyone thought they possessed and meted out a right-royal thrashing of the hosts. After being accused of having no match-winners, they bound together as a team to play a game of cricket most of them will never forget. So, yes, a celebration well deserved.
This year, I have seen some memorable cricket festivities. I was in Centurion when South Africa clinched the one-day series against India and toasted the night away. I was in Harare when Zimbabwe announced their return to Test cricket with a win over Bangladesh and was invited to their epic dhindhindi (party) at the team hotel. I was at Newlands when South Africa beat Australia and was working in the press box long enough to see Graeme Smith, his wife and a collection of friends gather on the Newlands pitch to celebrate 47 all out and a crazy win. So, I was interested to know what Sri Lanka got up to in Durban after making history at Kingsmead.
"We had a team drink and a few eats at the hotel," Anura Tennekoon, Sri Lankan team manager told me. "It was a fairly quiet celebration, we have another Test match to play." That's it? With popular beach bar Joe Cool's just across the road from the team hotel, I expected a little bit more than a social event which sounds so civilised. I wondered if Tennekoon was keeping something from me, but an early visit to the Durban beach-front told me he probably wasn't.
The Sri Lankan team were out there as well, playing a fierce match of beach soccer. Tennekoon said they decided to have a "light workout", but he was certainly not being entirely truthful about that. For over 90 minutes, under the roasting sun, with a stiff breeze, Sri Lanka played football.
Holiday makers wandered through their session, a few people stared curiously and some of us took pictures but they carried on, undeterred from their task. For a fleeting moment, I thought about whether the South African attack looked this determined when they came to the same sea for their recovery swim on Tuesday. Tennekoon's words came back to me, "We still have another match to play."
Since Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa, their quiet confidence has been striking. Initially most of them, including Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, said their main goal was just to win a Test here.
It's this determination that has made Sri Lanka so easy to warm to. They have not allowed anything, neither defeat, nor victory, to have too great an influence on their general character, so far. They've smiled without salaries and stressed the seriousness of improving their skills. Most importantly, they have not shied away from hard work.
One of the most likeable characters in the touring party is Tennekoon himself, who is polite, engaging and a true gentleman. I jokingly asked him how he was feeling this morning. He replied, in his typical soft-spoken style, "Well, when you win a Test match, you do get quite happy."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent