Match reports

Sri Lanka in South Africa, 2011-12

Wisden's review of the first Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka, Centurion, 2011-12

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
At Centurion, December 15-17, 2011. South Africa won by an innings and 81 runs. Toss: South Africa.
South Africa continued to strengthen the walls around fortress Centurion - and won the 13th of their 17 Tests there. Those who feared the series would be one-way traffic apparently had their suspicions confirmed with disturbing swiftness: South Africa played with the force of a ten-ton truck and rammed Sri Lanka's rickety bicycle off the road.
Sri Lanka were struggling from the word go, when they were put in to bat on a greentop that was scarcely paler than the outfield. Whether it was the conditions or the attack that spooked them, Sri Lanka looked like flags unsure which way to blow. From the moment Dilshan attempted a Twenty20 hoick across the line to be caught at midwicket, to the stroke of tea, when Steyn bowled last man Fernando, their innings was an ordeal.
Philander persisted with his fourth-stump line: he got the ball to rear up from a length to claim Sangakkara, caught at slip, and moved one in to clean up Paranavitana. Shortly after lunch, Sri Lanka teetered on 91 for four, but a cautious fifth-wicket stand of 65 between Samaraweera and Mathews provided a modicum of calm. They were assisted by Morkel's wayward lines, and had just started to find a rhythm when Philander struck again: he reviewed a caught-behind appeal against Samaraweera and Hot Spot revealed the faintest of smudges. Philander reviewed the next ball too, eventually having Silva caught behind down the leg side to stand on the verge of what would have been the first technology-delivered hat-trick. Perera denied him, but Sri Lanka were bowled out five overs later for 180. Their last six wickets had gone down for 24.
South Africa rolled on luxuriantly, with Smith and Rudolph putting on 88 for the first wicket. Smith was the accumulator, while Rudolph demonstrated supreme patience, perhaps chastened by his experience in the Tests against Australia when he threw his starts away. He scored seven off his first 53 balls, but only had to play at a third of them.
An aggressive burst from Fernando did bring Sri Lanka some joy at the end of the day, when he alarmed Smith with a short ball, then bowled him with a full one. The attack showed greater intent on the second morning. After a hard-fought 44, Rudolph was lured into a drive, at which point Kallis endured something of a going-over: troubled by Fernando's assortment of short balls, he was felled by one of them which drew blood above his ear; he continued batting, was dropped badly by wicketkeeper Silva on 27, and safely held on 31 by Mathews at third slip.
De Villiers and Prince took South Africa into the lead in a partnership of 97, but de Villiers' enthusiasm cost him on 99, when he failed to get on top of Perera and cut straight to point. Replays suggested doubt about the carry, but de Villiers preferred to trust substitute fielder Dimuth Karunaratne rather than review the dismissal. Boucher made only his second fifty of a lean patch stretching back to mid-2010 and, when South Africa were bowled out early on the third morning, Sri Lanka needed 231 to make them bat again. South Africa required just 39.1 overs to ensure they didn't get close.
Steyn had taken the last two first-innings wickets in consecutive balls, and only his booming inswing denied him a hat-trick when Paranavitana was struck on the pad by a ball that was doing too much. Philander instead started the rot in the fourth over, with one that nipped back and straightened to find Dilshan's edge. He used subtle variations in length and movement to leave Sri Lanka in tatters at 19 for three.
It seemed appropriate, in this most miserable of matches, that Jayawardene should run himself out scrambling the single that would have taken him to 10,000 Test runs. Although Morkel continued to be erratic, he gained confidence by having Samaraweera caught behind - one of six catches in the innings for Boucher. Philander, though, stood serene above the rest: a second five-wicket haul in the match made him only the fourth player, after Charlie Turner, Tom Richardson and Rodney Hogg, to pick up four or more five-fors in his first three Tests.
Man of the Match: V. D. Philander.
Close of play: First day, South Africa 90-1 (Rudolph 27, Steyn 0); Second day, South Africa 389-9 (Boucher 49, Imran Tahir 24).

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent