Test cricket continues to churn out some stirring results in 2019 and we have not yet completed two months in current year. West Indies won series vs heavyweights England in a major upset and close on its heels Srilanka thrashes the Proteas 2-0 in a massively stunning result !!! Who would have thought that apparently one of the weakest teams from Asia will defeat a full strength South Africa while more strongly balanced Asian teams like India could not achieve the same in history. Even stronger Lankan teams of the past have failed miserably in South Africa. This is a huge moment for test cricket. The oldest version of the game is still alive and kicking.
South Africa batted 1st in the 2nd test as the Lankan fast bowling attack impressed once again making strong inroads….unplayable deliveries from promising left armer Vishwa Fernando rattled stumps of Elgar and Amla. Good support from the spin of Desilva jolted the middle order till Markram and DCock managed to stitch a crucial partnership to finally get the Proteas to some respectibilty till the lower order was quickly snuffed out by the Lankan attack to restrict the Proteas to 222. Pacers Fernando(3/62) and Rajita (3/67) were supremely impressive
In reply the Protea quicks hit back hard and only a gritty 42 from Dickwella managed to extend the Lankans to 154 but still a lead of 68 was conceded. Rabada (4/38) and Olivier (3/61) looked awesome for the Proteas.
If the home side was now expecting to bat out the visitors to secure the win they were soon jolted as Fernando again got his bunny Elgar early . Though Markram and Amla scratched around unconvincingly, the spin of Desilva soon accounted for Amla for 32. At tea on 2nd day the Proteas were 90/5 with skipper Duplessis looking good and one good partnership was going to end Srilanka’s challenge virtually.
However post tea, the Lankan attack led by Lakmal made rapid inroads getting wickets in quick succession to blow away South Africa for a paltry 128 and get themselves a target of 197. Lakmal after barren returns in the series finally struck gold getting 4/39 with Dhananjay DeSilva claiming 3/36 and Rajitha (2/20) extracting pace. Duplessis ran out of partners to stay 50 notout.
Lankans started their chase on a cautious note as Rabada and Olivier made initial inroads getting out the openers. However Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando got together in a brilliant stand to take the game on the 3rd day on which they played aggressive cricket and was never bogged down by the enormity of the situation. The fuller balls were driven elegantly and shorter balls were savagely cut and pulled. The Protea bowlers tried everything but it was a superb strokeful batting exhibition with a brilliant unbeaten stand of 163 in with both Mendis (84no) and Fernando (75no) never making the mistake of getting over cautious trying to reach a small target which gets tricky sometimes. Kusal Mendes finally realising his well documented talent while Oshada was a surprise package and showed great courage and positivity. Sri Lanka won by 8 wickets with 4 bowlers (spinner Embuldeniya ruled out for six weeks with dislocated thumb) and took the series by a thumping margin of 2-0 .
Kusal Parera , who played that epic match winning 153 in 1 wicket win in 1st test, was the man of the series for his 214 runs in the series at 112 average. Oshada Fernando (131 runs at 43 avg ) and Kusal Mendes(112 runs at 37 avg) were the other successful batters for Srilanka in a low scoring series . Vishwa Fernando (12 wickets at 18 avg) looked the best bowler in the series on either side troubling all the opposition batsmen. Rajitha (9 wkts at 23 avg ) looked impressive too as was Lakmal ,but with lesser returns. The Srilankan bowling looked really good this series . However the batting needs to show more consistency though they were handicapped by the absence of two of their best batsmen , Chandimal and Angelo Mathews.
South Africa should be dissappointed with their batting in this series. Only Quinton DCock looked classy with his returns of 222 runs at 55 average. Duplessis batted doggedly for his 200 runs at 66 avg. Markram (117 runs at 29) promised much more than his returns and veteran Amla had a poor series as had Dean Elgar. The bowling looked better with Rabada (9 wkts at 29 and Olivier 7 wkts at 25 avg but they were up against a more determined outfit.
This series win is one of the greatest achievements for Sri Lanka in their cricket history alongside their 1996 world cup win and coming close on heels of their dissappointing overseas test tours of New Zealand and Australia. It may be recalled that in 2017 SriLanka beat Pakistan 2-0 in another overseas test series in UAE. Their batting can expect more solidity once Chandimal and a fit Mathews are back in fold.
Twitter reactions after SriLanka becoming 1st Asian team to win series in South Africa:
Ayubowan Sri Lanka. So many seniors missing. Yet @OfficialSLC are the first Asian team to win a series in South Africa. One of the toughest places to win. Impossible really is nothing. My guy @RusselArnold69 will be dancing in the streets as will many in Sri Lanka
✔@TheCricketGeek I can’t remember a bigger Test series upset than this Sri Lankan win. Unbelievable.
Harsha Bhogle: Wow, Sri Lanka! Hats off! Going where no Asian team has gone before, where better Sri Lankan teams haven’t. This is big! Very big. We knew of the undeniable class of Kusal Mendis. But this Oshada Fernando can bat! Many heroes for Sri Lanka, especially with ball in hand.