Third Test Match

South Africa v Sri Lanka 2000-01

Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: J. M. Kemp.

Sri Lanka surrendered 2-0 with a second three-day innings defeat, though at the last there were moments of the bullish counter-attack they had promised from the outset. Having chosen to bowl on a spicy yet not unpalatable track, Jayasuriya would have been looking forward to batting himself, in ever-improving conditions, when South Africa were an immature 204 for seven at tea - and this with Muralitharan unfit to play. Then Pollock transformed everything with a maiden Test century of such velocity, as well as class, that few believed his innings could have lasted 23 minutes, let alone 123. Deliveries that had reared to hit the splice of other bats hit nothing but the middle of Pollock's; everything he touched turned to gold, or four or six. While his power was well known, it was the timing of the extra-cover drives, played mostly on the up, that gave Pollock's hundred its signature.

Had he realised how close he was to Kapil Dev's Test record of fifty in 30 balls, against Pakistan in 1982-83, or Hansie Cronje's in 31 balls, also against Sri Lanka at Centurion in 1997-98, he would surely have attempted to beat them. But Pollock had no idea how many, or how few, balls he had faced; he treated several with unexplained respect before completing 50 in 35, with his tenth four. Six more fours flew from his bat, as well as a trio of sixes that cleared the boundary with a dozen rows to spare. His century arrived from 95 balls, equalling Jonty Rhodes's South African record, also at Centurion, against West Indies in 1998-99. Perhaps he was making up for lost time - no one had waited as long as his 51 Tests to score a maiden Test hundred (Ian Healy of Australia took 48). But he was only the ninth player to score a century from No. 9 - a feat he repeated at Bridgetown two months later.

In the circumstances, McKenzie's second Test century went virtually unnoticed. Despite a 66-run lead on Pollock, he reached 100 only two overs earlier, having played with volumes of composure and complete selflessness; out of 150 for the eighth wicket, he contributed 37. "It was just a pleasure being out there to watch," he said.

South Africa made 375 for nine on the first day and added three next morning. When a demoralised Sri Lanka replied, Gibbs's speed at extra cover ran out Atapattu early on, and Donald needed only five overs to announce his return after injury: the impressive Ngam had himself been sidelined by a stress fracture of the right femur. Within three balls, Jayasuriya fell to a smartly conceived, stunningly executed but blatantly obvious trap, carving a wide, short delivery straight to third man, and Sangakkara was bowled by a beauty. De Silva, a recent reinforcement (but less recent than Perera, who flew in the night before the match) chopped Kallis to cover, where Gibbs dived to hold a difficult catch; Ntini, fast, accurate and bouncy, shredded the middle order to such effect that Kaluwitharana's boisterous 32 in 30 balls was irrelevant.

When Sri Lanka followed on 259 behind, Sangakkara was promoted to open (partly, it later emerged, because Jayasuriya had just learned of his wife's miscarriage) and responded by batting throughout for a fine, defiant 98. While he and Arnold, who scored an aggressive 82-ball 71, were adding 113, South Africans had a glimpse of Sri Lankan batting at its best. But then Boje changed his line, turned one just enough to discover the outside edge and had Arnold caught at slip; debutant Justin Kemp, replacing the injured Klusener, mopped up the tail with clever pace changes and late swing. Finally, after five and three-quarter hours, when it looked as if South Africa might have to bat again, Sangakkara was trapped by a skidder. A maiden century was the least he deserved - but his wicket was just reward for Ntini, who had applied claustrophobic pressure.

Man of the Match: S. M. Pollock. Man of the Series: S. M. Pollock.

© John Wisden & Co