Sri Lanka’s stand-in skipper Dimuth Karunaratne heaped praise on his young squad, and especially the bowling line-up, in scripting a historic series sweep in South Africa. After a daylight robbery in the Test series opener, Sri Lanka won the second match by eight wickets on Saturday (February 23), inside three days. What makes it more memorable for Sri Lanka is that they are the first subcontinental side to beat South Africa in a series at home since the latter’s re-admission.
Despite being shot down for 154 in their first innings in Port Elizabeth, in response to South Africa’s 222, the visitors clawed their way back in the game through a disciplined bowling effort to wrap up the hosts for a meagre 128 in their second innings. Led by Suranga Lakmal’s four-fer, Sri Lanka then triggered a massive collapse as South Africa slipped from 90 for 3 to fold up for 128 once the reassuring stand between Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis was broken.
Overcoming the setback of two early wickets, Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando put on an unbroken 164-run stand to help Sri Lanka scale down the 197-run target with consummate ease on Day 3 and, with that, sweep the Test series 2-0 against the World No. 2 side.
“It is a great feeling for us as a team. It isn’t easy coming to South Africa and winning 2-0. The guys played really well, they enjoyed themselves a lot and that’s why we have created history,” winning skipper Karunaratne said after Sri Lanka’s eight-wicket victory. “We learnt a lot of things in Australia and the players wanted to do something special. They stuck to the basics and executed it well because of which we are here.
“The youngsters, in particular, did really well; so did the bowling lineup. The only concern was the batting in the first innings, but the bowlers did a great job in keeping us in the game. I would like to dedicate this win to all the Sri Lankan fans who supported us when we were losing.”
“Down with the most disappointing moments as a team”
Faf du Plessis has labelled South Africa’s series whitewash at the hands of the Sri Lankan side as one of the most disappointing moments for the team, while at the same time acknowledging the efforts of the visitors in scripting this upset.
“It’s probably down there with the most disappointing moments as a team. You don’t want to be a losing series at home,” du Plessis said at the end of the second Test. “We obviously didn’t play well, but to come to our backyard and beat us 2-0 means you’ve done something right; so good luck to them.
“We were pretty poor with the bat throughout the series and I thought both teams under performed with the bat. The pitches were conducive for batting and on this wicket we should have scored a lot more runs. No fingers should be pointed at the wicket but they bowled well and the disappointment lies within the team,” he added.
Du Plessis said the team’s insipid batting show wasn’t due to an unhelpful pitch but the team’s own judgement mistakes. The hosts made 222 in their first innings and despite having an edge of a crucial 68-run lead, folded for just 128 in their second innings with only the skipper getting a fifty in the game that ended well inside three days.
“We have some great batters in our side and 99-percent of our dismissals were soft judgement errors and that’s only a finger pointing back at ourselves.
“It’s absolutely mind blowing (31 wickets on the first two days) and I was thinking the exact same thing on the field. Batting out there yesterday felt like a very good wicket, and despite there being a bit of nip, it wasn’t very tough. There was some bad batting from both sides for the first two days and [then] they showed today that if you applied yourselves, you could make it look easy. It is a massive dent; we were looking good until this Test series, but we went down as a team in these last two matches.”
Du Plessis, however, hoped that this series upset won’t dent their World Cup preparations that kicks off with the one-day series against the visitors.
“We have a big five months coming up and for us we need to ensure that our preparations aren’t taken for granted. We can try and control the way we prepare against an opposition. They will now be high on confidence for the one-day series, but our guys should be really motivated for what lies ahead. It’s just one series and then the World Cup. We need to ensure along with the coach that there are no small weaknesses creeping into the dressing room,” the 34-year-old concluded.
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