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January 4, 2001
Six months ago, in Shaun Pollock's first Test match as captain, a ragged South African side lost by an innings and 15 runs to Sri Lanka in Galle. At Newlands on Thursday the wheel turned full circle as South Africa crushed Sri Lanka by an innings and 229 runs inside three days in the second Castle Lager/MTN Test match.
It was South Africa's largest margin of victory and Pollock, named man of the match after scything through the Sri Lankan first innings with figures of six for 30, had every reason to be proud of the achievement.
"We've come a long since then as a team," he said afterwards. "We've got a really well-balanced unit and the guys are confident and playing good cricket."
In the unenviable position of losing captain, Sanath Jayasuriya also spoke afterwards, mentioning a little bit of bad luck here and there, but he put his finger on it when he said, in so many words, that after being bowled out for 95, Sri Lanka didn't have a prayer.
He conceded that Sri Lanka's problems started at the top of the order where he and Marvan Atapattu simply haven't been able to get going and acknowledged that "the boys are a bit down".
Which seems fair understatement. Sri Lanka were simply blown away in this Test match with the last day no different from the first and second. South Africa batted on in the morning, reaching 504 for six as Lance Klusener crunched Russel Arnold for a straight six and promptly managed to get himself out next ball for 97.
Pollock said he had been looking for a 400 lead - "It's almost a psychological thing that's impossible to get over" - and had left the batsmen out there for an over or two more to allow Klusener to get his hundred.
With Klusener's dismissal Pollock called the batsmen off and gave his bowlers five overs at the Sri Lankans before lunch. Mfuneko Ngam had Jayasuriya caught in the gully off the eighth ball of the innings and it was downhill for Sri Lanka from there on.
Ngam nipped Kumar Sangakkara out shortly after lunch, Pollock had Atapattu trapped leg before and although there was some resistance from Mahela Jayawardene, who made a gutsy 45, and Arnold, the introduction of Nicky Boje spun out the middle order before and after tea.
Chaminda Vaas biffed and banged his way to 38 off 26 balls, but the tide had already come in for Sri Lanka and Ngam, perhaps fittingly, finished it all off when Dilhara Fernando gloved a catch to Mark Boucher.
It was as complete a performance as the South Africans could have hoped for, achieved on a fast, bouncy pitch of which the home team were able to fully express themselves.
As well as South Africa played, though, Sri Lanka were feeble opponents in this match. After being 13 for four on the first day, they seemed to lose all self-belief and although there were occasional individual contributions here and there, collectively they were a shambles.
Jayasuriya said that the four one-day internationals now coming up might allow Sri Lanka to regroup, but on the evidence of the last three days at Newlands, the stuffing has been knocked out of the tourists. Unless they are able to prove otherwise, their tour might already be over to all intents and purposes.
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