First Test Match

South Africa v Sri Lanka

At Johannesburg, November 8, 9, 10, 2002. South Africa won by an innings and 64 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: K. H. R. K. Fernando.

The Sri Lankans were brimming with optimism on the first morning of the series. Their coach, Dav Whatmore, believed them better prepared than at any time during his tenure, and he sensed an opportunity to unsettle South Africa. Two and a half days and eight sessions later, his side had been routed - overawed and overpowered by a five-pronged pace attack who bowled with sustained hostility on a trampoline-like Wanderers pitch.

Not that the game began smoothly for South Africa. Their regular opener, Herschelle Gibbs, developed back spasms during the warm-up and, as the captains walked out to toss, the SOS had still not gone out to his replacement, Martin van Jaarsveld, who was in Pretoria. Jayasuriya boldly chose to bat on a green-tinged surface, allowing the South African top order time to regroup.

The Sri Lankan batting also had a slightly unfamiliar look: Jayasuriya slunk back into the middle order while Arnold opened - and promptly wafted lamely into the slips. The rest of the top six made starts only to waste them. Sangakkara played positively before being caught on the back foot when he should have gone forward, and Atapattu played on. Even so, Jayawardene and Jayasuriya were guiding Sri Lanka towards recovery at 137 for three.

However, Kallis, maybe thinking more of the sports minister's attempt to belittle him than of his hamstring injury, took three wickets in six balls: Jayawardene feathered an out-swinger, Jayasuriya fended off a short ball into the slips and Hasantha Fernando, a medium-pace all-rounder making his debut, betrayed his nerves with an ill-advised pull. When Vaas was caught in the gully, Sri Lanka had slumped to 141 for seven. Tillekeratne grafted and Muralitharan swatted an entertaining first-ball six, but Sri Lanka's 192 was well below par.

By the close, Kirsten and Smith had sailed to 51 without loss. Next morning, they cruised to 133, relishing the width offered by undisciplined seamers. Dilhara Fernando repeatedly overstepped, conceding 21 in no-balls, while the left-armer, Perera, back after remedial work on his action, ran straight back into trouble. Umpire Harper banned him from bowling after he repeatedly followed through on to the pitch. Even Muralitharan was treated harshly, especially by the left-handed Smith, who time and again drilled him through the off side. But South Africa were suddenly derailed by a triple strike from Hasantha Fernando, who broke through with his second ball in Test cricket. With Vaas seeing off Prince and McKenzie, South Africa were teetering at 180 for five, still 12 behind. Kallis glued the innings together with a painstaking, five-hour 75, taking his run in Test cricket between dismissals to 909 minutes, and squeezed vital runs out of a deep batting order. A total of 62 extras - then the seventh-highest in Test history - also boosted the South African cause.

Trailing by 194, Sri Lanka crumbled against Ntini and Pollock. This time Arnold lasted one ball, which he poked feebly to the slips for a second time, completing a pair, as did Hasantha Fernando. By the 13th over, Sri Lanka had crashed to 25 for four. Atapattu stayed two hours and Tillekeratne batted stubbornly to carry Sri Lanka past 71, their lowest Test total, but the game ended in a rush as the last four wickets fell for just eight. Disappointing crowds led to a renewed suggestion from former UCBSA head Ali Bacher that Tests should not be shown on TV within 100km of the stadium, at least at weekends.

Man of the Match: J. H. Kallis. Attendance: 20,859.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 51-0 (Smith 15, Kirsten 21); Second day, South Africa 378-7 (Kallis 75, Hall 31).

© John Wisden & Co