At Johannesburg, January 12-14, 2017. Toss: South Africa. South Africa won by an innings and 118 runs. Test debut: D. Olivier.
With the series decided at Newlands, all that remained to be discovered - from a South African perspective, at least - was whether Amla could deliver a performance befitting his 100th Test. The question was prickly. One of the greatest batsmen of the age, and as close to a deity as any South African sportsman can become, he had gone 13 innings without a century, and ten without even a fifty, a period in which he had twice been dismissed for ducks and twice for one, and watched his average dip below 50 for the first time in four years. This constituted something akin to a crisis - to everyone except Amla.
Happily, then, du Plessis won the toss, and batted on a Wanderers pitch full of Jo'burg jive. More happily, Mathews had Cook leg-before early in the second hour. Most happily, the Amla who came out to bat was the Amla the cricket world has come to know, respect and love. The crowd was small, which was less an insult to him than a nod to the pullin power of golfer Rory McIlroy, who was playing in the South African Open at nearby Glendower.
But the fans who did show up were rewarded by a performance from Amla at his most mesmerising - once he had overcome an hour and more of fragility, anyway. His fluency grew: one day and seven minutes after he had taken guard, he was stunningly caught by Chandimal - diving in front of first slip - for 134, his 26th Test century. He explained why he had declined to attend a pre-match press conference, which had been scheduled to mark his centenary: "There have been some frustrations after not getting runs over the last couple of games, and not contributing to the team's success. I wanted my focus to be as pure as possible, with no side attractions or razzmatazz." And it worked: Amla was the eighth player to score a hundred in his 100th Test, and the second South African, after Graeme Smith at The Oval in 2012.
Almost lost in the hoopla was a fine 155 from Duminy, who put on 292 for the third wicket with Amla, South Africa's biggest stand for any wicket against Sri Lanka, beating 205 by Alviro Petersen and Jacques Kallis at Newlands five years earlier. Though the last eight fell for 89, with four wickets apiece for Pradeep Fernando and Kumara, the Sri Lankans were still faced with 426. By lunch on the third day, they were following on again, a disheartening 295 behind, after another inept batting display, in which Parnell - playing only his second Test in almost seven years - and debutant seamer Duanne Olivier took two wickets apiece. They fared better in their second innings, but only just, and their evisceration was over before stumps, with Parnell adding another four.
Sri Lanka had lost 16 wickets in a day, a national record, pipping the 15 to fall on the third day at Bangalore in January 1994. In all, they had faced just 88.1 overs, as they slid to the 3-0 whitewash that had looked on the cards since the second day of the series.
Man of the Match: J-P. Duminy. Man of the Series: D. Elgar