Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: P.B.Dassanayake, P.K.Wijetunge; C.E.Eksteen, P.L.Symcox.
Sri Lanka seemed to have their inaugural Test with South Africa sewn up on the final afternoon, when the tourists slipped to 138 for six - still 226 behind - with three hours left. But Rhodes transcended his earlier unconvincing form to play the innings of his life. With staunch support from the tail, only one more wicket fell and Rhodes reached his maiden Test hundred just before the end.
Inspecting the pitch the day before the match, the South Africans had assumed an under-prepared surface would assist spin. They gave first caps to both their slow bowlers, Symcox and Eksteen, and left out the all-rounder, McMillan. Sri Lanka, who introduced the wicket-keeper Dassanayake and left-arm spinner Wijetunge, won what seemed to be a good toss. But Donald dismissed Hathurusinghe for one, the first of a distressing sequence of low scores for him, and pace continually troubled the Sri Lankans, though Mahanama batted capably, Ranatunga adventurously and Tillekeratne soundly, until he played across a full-pitched in-swinger from Schultz on 92.
South Africa also had problems with seam, despite their earlier fears of spin. After a solid start, they foundered against the second new ball, losing three wickets in three overs, Clean hitting by Symcox partially rescued the innings. After he also claimed two wickets in his first over of the evening, Sri Lanka finished the day with an overall lead of 90. Both Donald and Schultz struck next morning but the most attractive batting of the match, a partnership of 121 in 103 minutes between De Silva and Ranatunga, put Sri Lanka on top. Ranatunga went on to 131, his fourth Test century, including 18 fours and a six. He eventually became the first Sri Lankan to score 2,500 Test runs - though television replays suggested he should have been caught and bowled by Cronje when 58.
Shortly after he was out, Ranatunga declared, setting South Africa a target of 365 from a minimum 115 overs. That was never likely to be achieved, with the ball keeping low and turning appreciably. Once Hudson and Cronje were out cheaply and Wessels followed early the final day, survival was South Africa's aim. Though Cook and Cullinan each batted resolutely for more than two hours, Sri Lanka scented victory with six down. But Rhodes countered the spinners with nimble footwork and pad play, supported by Symcox for 76 minutes and then Eksteen, who defended solidly for an hour and a half. Rhodes was still unbeaten after four and a quarter hours and 101 runs, including 14 fours and a six.
Man of the Match: A. Ranatunga
Close of Play: First day, Sri Lanka 241-5 (H. P. Tillekeratne 37*, R. S. Kalpage 39*); Second day, South Africa 81-0 (K. C. Wessels 39*) A. C. Hudson 39*); Third day, Sri Lanka 26-2 (U. C. Hathurusinghe 6*, A. P. Gurusinha 0*); Fourth day, South Africa 25-2 (K. C. Wessels 9*, D. J. Cullinan 4*).