South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, 3rd day

Brittle Sri Lanka blown away by an innings

The Report by Andrew McGlashan

December 17, 2011

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South Africa 411 (de Villiers 99, Boucher 65, Smith 61) beat Sri Lanka 180 (Philander 5-53, Steyn 4-18) and 150 (Philander 5-49) by an innings and 81 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Dale Steyn celebrates the exit of Tharanga Paranavitana, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, 3rd day, December 17, 2011
Sri Lanka's batsmen followed each swiftly back to the dressing room © AFP

South Africa overwhelmed a brittle Sri Lanka by an innings and 81 runs at Centurion with victory sealed before tea on the third day when Vernon Philander claimed his tenth wicket of the match. The home side's bowlers needed just 39.1 overs to dismantle the opposition batting line-up for a second time to reinforce the pre-series predictions that this could be a very one-sided contest.

Sri Lanka's cricket has taken a worrying nosedive since they finished runners up at the World Cup. Even then there were rumblings of discontent and now their on-field performances are suffering. This limp second innings followed previous collapses this year against England at Cardiff (82), Australia at Galle (105) and further problems in UAE against Pakistan. There is no shame in being beaten by South Africa at Centurion - this was their 13th victory in 17 Tests at the venue - but Sri Lanka barely put up a fight. Across two innings the batting lasted 86.5 overs; less than a day's play.

Philander continued to pile up the records with match figures of 10 for 102 to make it four five-wicket hauls in six Test innings. Dale Steyn could easily have had a bagful himself with probing late swing at pace and he regularly beat the outside edge. Morne Morkel continued to be a concern with another erratic display but produced a rising delivery to remove Thilan Samaraweera which will have been a confidence booster. South Africa were also gifted Mahela Jayawardene's wicket when he contrived to run himself out trying for a run that would have taken him to 10,000 in Test cricket. The confusion summed up Sri Lanka's state of mind.

Facing a deficit of 231 on a surface offering help to the quicks was a daunting prospect and Sri Lanka soon started to crumble. Tillakaratne Dilshan departed first against some skilful seam and swing bowling from Philander who produced a delivery that nipped back then straightened to find the edge low to Mark Boucher. At least this time he wasn't caught at mid-on.

Smart stats

  • South Africa improved even further on their already outstanding record in Centurion. They have now won 13 out of 17 Tests at the venue while losing just one.
  • Vernon Philander picked up his fourth five-wicket haul in six innings. He becomes only the fourth player, after Charlie Turner, Tom Richardson and Rodney Hogg, to pick up four or more five-fors in the first three Tests.
  • This is Sri Lanka's 11th defeat by an innings in matches played since 2000 and their fourth innings defeat against South Africa in the same period. The defeat margin is also the fifth-largest for Sri Lanka in Tests since 2000.
  • Sri Lanka last won a Test in July 2010 when they beat India by ten wickets in Galle. Since then, they have gone 14 Tests without a single win with four losses and ten draws.
  • Sri Lanka were bowled out under 200 in both their innings. This is only the fifth such occurrence since 2000 and the third time against South Africa in the same period.
  • Boucher's 65 is only his second half-century since his 69 in Trinidad in 2010. Since then, he has scored just 260 runs at an average of 20.00.
  • Boucher took six catches in an innings for the fourth time in Tests. The record is seven catches which has been achieved by four different players.
  • The 61-run stand between Mark Boucher and Imran Tahir is the highest last-wicket stand for South Africa against Sri Lanka. Their highest last-wicket stand overall is 107 between AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel in 2010.

Tharanga Paranavitana had a tortured stay. Steyn thought he'd pinned him lbw first ball which would have completed a split-innings hat-trick, but having persuaded Graeme Smith to use a review the replays showed the ball sliding past leg stump. The opening over was a lengthy affair as Paranavitana also needed considerable treatment for a knee injury then against Philander earned the benefit of the DRS having been given lbw to a ball that pitched outside leg.

Next over, though, Paranavitana's painful stay was ended following a working over by Steyn when he offered a limp edge to leave Sri Lanka 11 for 2. Steyn and Philander were constantly threatening with subtle movement and they would have been a handful against more confident line-ups than Sri Lanka's. The chances of the visitors offering any prolonged resistance receded further when Kumar Sangakkara completed a poor match by giving Boucher his third catch of the innings as he was defeated by skilful seam bowling.

It wasn't as though South Africa needed a helping hand but they were gifted Jayawardene's wicket. Although credit must go to Jacques Kallis for swift work from his follow through and a pinpoint throw at the non-striker's end. It was a wonderfully sharp piece of fielding which so highlighted the gulf between the two teams.

The procession continued after lunch when Angelo Mathews, whose presence in the series is in doubt after he picked up a groin strain, became Boucher's fifth catch and Philander's third wicket. It was a productive day for Boucher who began by reaching a fifty that he'll hope will quieten speculation over his future. There was no arguing with the quality of his glovework and six catches in the innings equalled the best haul of his career.

Morkel then made his first incision of a difficult match at which point Sri Lanka were threatening to fold for double figures. Thisara Perera resisted for a while until slashing Steyn to slip while Herath launched two sixes into the stands but the end arrived swiftly when Philander claimed the final two wickets. This was the sort of ruthless performance Smith called for before the game and it's difficult to see how South Africa will be pushed in the remaining Tests.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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