Second Test

Sri Lanka v South Africa

Brian Murgatroyd

At Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, August 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 2004. Sri Lanka won by 313 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka recorded their first-ever series win over South Africa by handing out a comprehensive thrashing. The gulf between the two sides in this match was immense and only rain, which all but washed out the fourth day, together with Sri Lanka's reluctance to enforce the follow-on, spared Smith's side from an even greater humiliation. For South Africa the match was a rude awakening. After surviving on a slow, turning pitch in Galle, they believed they would be well-placed to compete in Colombo at a ground where history suggested fast bowlers would find some assistance. But, after Sangakkara made a high-class double-century and Jayasuriya shredded some paperthin South African batting, it was Sri Lanka's quick bowlers, Vaas and Malinga, who exploited conditions far better than the visitors. In the fourth innings the pair terrorised South Africa's batsmen: a delicious irony after previous series between the two sides when Sri Lanka's batsmen suffered continually at the hands of South Africa's quicks.

Sangakkara's sixth Test hundred was a superb effort and formed the platform for Sri Lanka's dominance. It was full of the flowing drives that have become his trademark, but he also pounced on anything short, showing a willingness to hook and cut. Together with Jayawardene he added 192 for the third wicket, and although Jayawardene was bowled through the gate with the second new ball late in the day, it was small consolation for South Africa. Their lacklustre display in the field had set the tone for their own performance. Even allowing for the high humidity their over-rate was poor and, crucially, they missed Sangakkara on 57 when Kallis grassed a regulation slip catch off Pollock. Sangakkara was so certain the edge would be caught he had started walking, but a call from his partner made him turn on his heels and resume his innings. He reached his third Test double-hundred on day two, sprinting the three runs that took him from 198 to 201 as if to underline Sri Lanka's positive intent. In all he batted for 529 minutes, faced 357 balls and hit 31 fours and a swept six off Boje before edging a drive to slip as South Africa belatedly fought back on day two. It was the only day from which they could derive any satisfaction as they took Sri Lanka's last six wickets for 78, a period that included a last-wicket stand of 33 off 92 balls between Chandana and Malinga, when the match almost ground to a halt.

South Africa's fightback in the field continued with the bat as van Jaarsveld and Smith added 108 for the second wicket after Gibbs's return to Test action lasted just one ball, courtesy of a Vaas in-swinger. But the stand was the high-water mark of their efforts and, from the moment when van Jaarsveld drove lazily to short extra, it was all downhill for South Africa. On the third morning they fell in a heap as Jayasuriya and his fellow left-arm spinner Herath ran through some ill-disciplined batting. Jayasuriya, despite the handicap of a side strain, claimed Test-best figures, and the follow-on seemed the natural option for Atapattu. His bowlers were still relatively fresh - Vaas did not bowl on day three - and South Africa's morale was rock-bottom. But rather than risk batting last in pursuit of a small target, Sri Lanka opted to bat again, with Sangakkara helping to extend the lead to 492 by the close.

At that point the weather seemed set fair, but it began to rain in the night. When it continued for much of the following morning the wisdom of Atapattu's decision looked dubious. But his blushes were spared by effective covering that protected virtually the whole ground, and some superb fast bowling by Malinga and Vaas. Only eight overs were possible on day four, but in that time Sri Lanka's fast bowlers tore in. Malinga had Gibbs caught at leg gully as he fended a ball off his rib cage and Vaas bowled van Jaarsveld with a brilliant in-swinging yorker after the batsman had his helmet grille rearranged by a Malinga bouncer. It was brilliant, breathless stuff. When the final day dawned sunny, the bowlers maintained the momentum. Vaas removed Kallis with the third ball of the day thanks to a delivery that disturbed the surface of the pitch and a good low catch by Dilshan at second slip. When Smith and Rudolph fell soon afterwards, both miscuing hook shots, the writing was on the wall. Dippenaar and Boucher showed survival was far from impossible, but Vaas returned to claim his first five-wicket haul against South Africa.

Man of the Match: K. C. Sangakkara. Man of the Series: W. P. U. J. C. Vaas.

© John Wisden & Co