South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2016-17
Wisden's review of the second Test, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2016-17
At Cape Town, January 2-5, 2017. Toss: Sri Lanka. South Africa won by 282 runs.
Kyle Abbott's Kolpak defection hove into the public consciousness in reports from England on the first evening. Once there, it hung over proceedings like the noxious clouds caused by Cape Town's bushfires, and dominated the aftermath of South Africa's crushing victory; Abbott went wicketless, and was dropped. The batting heroes were Elgar, who scored a century high on discipline, and de Kock, whose own hundred was a paean to the profanity of mad left-handers everywhere. With the ball, Rabada was alight with malevolence during a return of ten for 92 - the best match figures for South Africa against Sri Lanka, and the best in a Cape Town Test since readmission, passing Saeed Ajmal's ten for 147 for Pakistan in 2012-13.
Put in, the South Africans had slumped to 66 for three shortly before lunch. That they were still at the crease by the close, having lost only three more wickets while adding 231 more runs, was due in no small part to Elgar's cussedness. Until the sixth over before the close, he had withstood the probing impertinence of Lakmal and the 19-year-old Kumara. Elgar, who left the ball impeccably, had added 103 for the sixth wicket with de Kock, as
South Africa surged towards 400 with the help of nuggety efforts by Philander and Maharaj. In just his third Test, Kumara finished with six for 122; only Muttiah Muralitharan, with six for 39 at Durban in 2000-01, had better innings figures for Sri Lanka in South Africa. Herath, meanwhile, moved to 356 Test wickets, one more than Chaminda Vaas and behind only Murali on Sri Lanka's all-time list.
But individual pleasure quickly gave way to general despondency: Sri Lanka were dismissed for 110, their second-lowest total against South Africa, though they were spared the indignity of following on, perhaps because next day's forecast was for warmth and no cloud cover. Their answer to Philander's precision and Rabada's fire was misplaced aggression: no one came to terms with the conditions, nor escaped the twenties. Having
been 56 for one, they lost nine for 54.
South Africa were already a commanding 317 ahead by the second-day close, but batted on until 45 minutes before tea on the third, to set a target of 507. Philander and Rabada then picked off Sri Lanka's top four before stumps, which came with Mathews and Chandimal standing firm. Both, along with Tharanga, were cleared away in the space of three overs next morning, as the scale of the hiding became obvious. South Africa's bowlers made expert snipers, but the tourists, with their penchant for big, loose shots when they should have been thinking small and tight, were sitting ducks. The carnage, and a series win, was complete 15 minutes before lunch, leaving du Plessis to purr: "It was pretty much a perfect performance."
Man of the Match: K. Rabada