Samaraweera proves his point
The shining light of Sri Lanka's tour, Samaraweera became only the third batsman from the sub-continent to score two centuries in a series in South Africa, after Azhar Mahmood and Sachin Tendulkar. He batted with composure, forcing the South Africans to bowl a straighter line to him and milked the spinner, Imran Tahir. His hundred in Durban was match-winning and if he had had an able partner at the other end of his Newlands century for longer, he might have saved the match for Sri Lanka. After being dropped from the side for last year's series against Pakistan, Samaraweera proved his point in a big way.
Since Muttiah Muralitharan retired in July last year, success has been as rare to Sri Lanka as a quality spinner is for their opposition. Herath turned that around. He was the most successful Sri Lanka bowler, with ten wickets at 27.70, and used the old-fashioned values of guile and flight to out-think the batsmen. In Centurion, where conditions did not suit him at all, he was miserly. In Durban, his nine wickets were key to Sri Lanka's victory as he spun a web around the South Africa batting. And in Cape Town, he toiled for 42 overs to end with the only respectable figures in a battered bowling card. Herath also lived up to reputation as a Sanath-Jayasuriya-like character and provided late fireworks with the bat.
The most promising player of the tour, Chandimal was the unsung hero of the Durban victory. He scored twin half-centuries, combining with centurions Samaraweera and Sangakkara respectively and displayed the temperament required to play at the highest level. He was also efficient behind the stumps. At Newlands, he tried to shield the under-firing tail but the magnitude of the task became too much for a young man with great potential.
Leading a depleted attack in foreign conditions is no easy task but Welegedara did so admirably before losing his way in Cape Town. He was Sri Lanka's best bowler in Centurion, making timely breakthroughs, and skittled through South Africa's top-order in Durban, opening the gates for a historic win. But on a flat pitch at Newlands and with an attitude that showed he did not actually want to bowl, he was expensive and wayward and failed to take the catch that would have dismissed double-centurion Jacques Kallis for 1.
Undone by three good, wicket-taking balls in his first three innings, Sangakkara made up for it with a classy century in Durban. With Chandimal at the other end, he batted South Africa out of the match with a range of delicate strokes that showed off his finesse. When he was needed to lead the line-up in Cape Town, he failed, playing a careless shot in the first innings, which sparked Sri Lanka's collapse. That he ended as Sri Lanka's second highest run-scorer serves as a measure for the struggles the team faced.
Irresponsible with the bat at the best of times, Dilshan gave his side only one score of substance. His 78 at Newlands pushed Sri Lanka along quickly as they responded to South Africa's mammoth 580. It was the least Dilshan could do after opting to bowl first on a batsman-friendly track. In the other matches, he threw his wicket away at will, playing rash shots with no attempt to be guided by the match context. He was more perceptive in the field and crafty with his bowlers but on the whole, Dilshan talked a good game but rarely followed up on it.
A caricature of the fading fast bowler, Dilhara Fernando did everything expected of a quick in his twilight years. He lumbered around, needing ten overs in the field to warm up and then fired in a handful of unbelievably expert spells to restore his reputation. He felled Jacques Kallis with a bouncer in Centurion but his stand-out performance came in the second innings of the second Test, where he removed Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince. Knee pain ruled him out of the third Test and Sri Lanka missed his experience.
The Sri Lanka vice-captain's series went by almost unnoticed, until his half-century in the third Test. Before that, he had two scores in the 30s and was dismissed cheaply thrice, raising questions over his ability to play a leadership role in the team as he struggled in the field. His 63 at Newlands and key partnership with Samaraweera added value to an otherwise insignificant effort from Matthews. In that innings, he showed his ability to work through pressure and was dismissed just when the pair were starting to dictate proceedings. He made a slow return to bowling and managed 26 overs in the three Tests.
Six innings, six starts but no flourishing finish. It's easy to forget that Jayawardene became the first Sri Lankan to score 10,000 Test runs in the course of this series because he laboured through it with few results. He didn't ever look comfortable at the crease, fidgeted around and failed to prop up the middle order. Apart from his run-out, he was dismissed five times by a genuine quick (Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Marchant de Lange) illustrating the problems he had with adjusting to the pace and bounce. The former captain has not scored a Test half-century away from home in over two years and some have even questioned whether he will continue to be a fixture in the side from now on.
Scores of 23 and 30 in one Test do not provide enough of a picture to assess the opener, who replaced Tharanga Paranavitana at the top. He showed the abilities to occupy the crease for long periods of time and to front up to a hostile bowling attack. On a flat pitch in Cape Town, Thirimanne should have made better use of his opportunity to be truly convincing.
One of Sri Lanka's casualties of the tour, Paranavitana made just 57 runs in four innings before being dropped. He displayed all the stereotypical weaknesses of a sub-continental batsman and struggled to adjust to the conditions. In particular, he was puzzled by the lengths of the South Africa bowlers and was regularly dismissed looking for a drive that was not there.
The young wicket-keeper was the victim of a significant defeat after managing just 17 runs from his two innings in Centurion. Like many of the Sri Lanka batsmen in that match, he was undone by bowler-friendly conditions - pace, bounce and seam - and could not adjust in time to last for the second Test. Silva was competent without being exceptional behind the stumps but will likely fall third in the queue for the gloveman's job from now on.
His first ball of the series resulted in the wicket of Graeme Smith. Eight overs later he dismissed Hashim Amla. If only Prasad's tale could have ended there. Instead, he was bashed about for 154 runs and tasked with bowling the delivery that saw Sri Lanka lose the series. To end a nightmare, it was a no-ball. He showed the right intent but his aggression did not always match skill, perhaps a symptom of the lack of bowling after a return from injury.
Probably the most disappointing of the Sri Lanka party, Perera struggled with both bat and ball and left a soft spot at No. 8. He scored a paltry 81 runs and was one of the batsmen who failed to adapt to the conditions. He opened the bowling with little success, managing five wickets for a bloated 320 runs. He had the highest average, 64.00, and economy rate, 4.7, among Sri Lanka bowlers who played at least two Tests in the series and was undoubtedly the weak link of their line-up.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent