South Africa all out for 73 in just 28.5 overs and inside three days. The scoreboard at the Galle International Stadium encapsulated the tourists’ sorry tale as they succumbed to an ignominious 278-run defeat in the opening Test of the two-match series in Galle, on Saturday (July 14).
It turned out to be South Africa’s lowest Test score since their readmission with all ten wickets falling to spin. Dilruwan Perera was the wrecker-in-chief, picking up a six-wicket haul to add to his four in the first innings, to expedite Sri Lanka’s emphatic win.
The visitors’ pitiful procession started right after the Lunch interval, with Dean Elgar being dismissed by Perera. He stepped down the track but missed the line completely and was stumped. Perera then proceeded to send back the mainstay of the South African batting line-up, Hashim Amla, back to the pavilion. The veteran batsman could only eke out an inside edge, which deflected via the pad to the leg slip fielder. He was dismissed in a similar fashion in the first innings.
Temba Bavuma and Faf du Plessis didn’t last long either as the visitors soon slid to 25 for 4. Aiden Markram, who was batting with a sense of composure, paid the price for premeditating and was stumped off Rangana Herath. The abject collapse continued as Quinton de Kock was adjudged LBW off Perera. The wicketkeeper-batsman took the review but with no success.
Vernon Philander (22*), who was dropped by the fielder positioned at mid off, and Keshav Maharaj landed a few powerful blows before Perera prised out the latter. Rabada and Steyn followed in quick succession. Eventually, Perera finished things off in style by sending Tabraiz Shamsi back to the hut. With that scalp, the offspinner from Panadura bagged his second 10-wicket haul in a match. He blended discipline with appreciable turn and straighter-ones to befuddle the opposition ranks on a sporting track.
The woeful show by South Africa’s batsmen also undid the good work done by their bowlers in the morning session. Rabada had bowled with a fair amount of aggression and generated reverse swing to run through Sri Lanka’s middle order. The South Africa spearhead, who also became the youngest to reach the milestone of 150 Test wickets, dislodged both Niroshan Dickwella and Perera.
Angelo Mathews (35), the former captain, and Suranga Lakmal (33*), the current captain, landed a few lusty blows to propel the home side to 190, which meant South Africa were left with a stiff target of 352. In the end, the target proved to be well beyond the reach of the visitors.
The South African camp have plenty to ponder about. The visitors didn’t seem to have the required plans to counter the spin threat as they played a slew of shots without any conviction.
Meanwhile, in the backdrop of the ball tampering saga in the Caribbean, it turned out to be a sweet victory for the home side. Dimuth Karunratne, who essayed brilliant hands of 158 not out and 60, proved to be the cornerstone of their thumping win.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 287 (Dimuth Karunaratne 158*; Kagiso Rabada 4-50) and 190 (Dimuth Karunaratne 60; Keshav Maharaj 4-58) beat South Africa 126 (Faf du Plessis 49; Dilruwan Perera 4-46) and 73 (Vernon Philander 22*; Dilruwan Perera 6-32) by 278 runs.