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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
December 29, 2011
Sri Lanka 338 (Samaraweera 102, Chandimal 58, de Lange 7-81) and 279 (Sangakkara 108, Chandimal 54, Steyn 5-73) beat South Africa 168 (Amla 54, Welegedara 5-52, Herath 4-49) and 241 (de Villiers 69, Amla 51, Herath 5-79) by 208 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
As predicted the Durban Test was a one-sided affair, except that it was the no-hopers from Sri Lanka who were doing the dominating. A year that has gone rapidly downhill for Sri Lanka since their World Cup final appearance in April, including an interminable run of series defeats and a bankrupt board struggling to pay players, ended on the most unexpected of highs as they secured their first Test success in South Africa.
A Sri Lanka victory that will rank alongside the path-breaking one at The Oval 15 years ago as the greatest in their history was within reach as South Africa's batting crumbled after lunch on the fourth day at Kingsmead. The parties in Sri Lanka were delayed by a long stand between AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, who batted out most of the final session before Rangana Herath struck minutes before close to ease any anxiety building up. The final three wickets went down in four deliveries and a fantastic year for Test cricket ended with the biggest upset of 2011.
South Africa's batting had been solid in the morning, and they would have been satisfied with the start to their attempt at a world-record chase of 450 despite losing the wicket of Graeme Smith. With Hashim Amla in imperious form, South Africa had reached a reasonably comfortable 86 for 1 by lunch, but over the next hour they lost four wickets and even their flimsy hopes of ending their three-Test losing run at Durban evaporated.
The collapse began in the first over after the break, when Jacques Rudolph's resistance ended - and with it perhaps his recently-revived Test career, temporarily at least. As so often in his second coming at the Test level, he was caught in the slip cordon - this time nicking a wide delivery from Thisara Perera.
Jacques Kallis has been in patchy form recently, including a duck in the first innings, but his record in the second innings of Tests is unimpeachable. If South Africa were to salvage something from the Test, they needed another Kallis special. Unfortunately for him, there were no match-turning heroics as he top-edged a sweep on to his helmet to give short leg a catch. In his 149th Test, he bagged his first pair.
If that blow left South Africa unsteady, they were on the mat soon after as Amla, till then producing a masterclass in off-side strokeplay, was run out after attempting a kamikaze single. He punched the ball straight to mid-on and dashed across for the run though Ashwell Prince showed no interest, and stayed firmly at the non-striker's end. Prince, with his Test career on the line, then had to face a lifter from Dilhara Fernando, that he could only glove towards slip. With South Africa at 116 for 5, the fans could start partying in Sri Lanka.
The Prince dismissal was an almost exact replica of Smith's earlier in the day. Fernando, used as early as the ninth over this time after his delayed introduction in the first innings, started with his usual no-ball, raising snickers, but there was no laughing later in the over when he got a delivery to leap at Smith. The batsman attempted to ride the bounce, instead of dropping his hands and letting the ball through, and could only glove a catch to slip.
Besides Fernando, South Africa's main worry was the left-arm spin of Herath. On Wednesday, South Africa had been given a glimpse of what was to come when two successive deliveries from Imran Tahir spun and kicked off a length to comfortably beat the batsman and the wicketkeeper. With the ball turning, Herath varied his flight and angle, to relentlessly probe the South African batsmen's techniques. He was rewarded with the huge wicket of Kallis, and just before tea he added the scalp of Mark Boucher, another man whose place in the side is under scrutiny.
AB de Villiers gamely fought on, but there was little he could do to lift South Africa from their hopeless situation. He and Steyn defied the bowling for 34 overs - another reminder to the batting unit that failed twice in this match that the surface wasn't unplayable.
Steyn had been central to South Africa's promising start to the day as well. In the first innings, he had gone wicketless in a completed innings for the first time since 2008, and he responded second time round with his 17th Test five-for to bring a quick end to the Sri Lankan innings.
There was some classic tail-end batting from Sri Lanka in the morning but their resistance lasted only about half an hour. It didn't matter much, given how far ahead Sri Lanka had already got after the first three days of the Test.
The biggest monkey on the back in the game, if measured by column inches, would be Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international hundred, but the bigger one is Sri Lanka failing to win a Test for nearly a year-and-a-half since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. They have got that off their backs - in style and on a great stage - setting up a tantalising decider in Cape Town.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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