Sri Lanka make history at Durban
Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman AB de Villiers bravely defied Sri Lanka for two sessions before his RCB teammate Tillakaratne Dilshan’s SL wrapped up a 208 run win at Durban, their first ever Test win in South Africa.
Sri Lanka chose to bat first in the Boxing Day Test after winning the toss and skipper Dilshan hit top gear immediately, hitting 47, his highest score yet in the series. SL couldn’t get any partnerships going though and soon were 117/4. Thilan Samaraweera rescued SL with his 102, becoming only the second SL batsman to score a century in SA. He received dogged support from the debutant wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal who made 58 as SL eventually made 338 in their first innings. SA went into the match without their sensational find Vernon Philander but his replacement Marchant de Lange took 7/81, the best figures for a debutant in 2011.
South Africa Boxing Day Test record at Durban has been poor in the last three years and their performance this year did nothing to correct it. Chanaka Welegedara ran through them as they collapsed to 27/3 before Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers repaired the innings to take them to 100/3 at Tea on Day 2.
Welegedara returned after lunch to remove both the batsmen and Herath took over from there. SA were bowled out in the session, only some defiant hitting from Steyn, Tahir and de Lange taking them from 119/8 to 168/10. Welegedara finished with 5/52, Herath with 4/49.
Sri Lanka had taken a whopping first innings lead of 170 runs but lost skipper Dilshan in the 2.1 overs they faced after bowling out SA, ending Day 2 at 7/1.
SL’s batting on Day 3 started wobbly as they lost Tharanga Paranavitana and Jayawardene soon but Kumar Sangakkara made amends to his poor run in the series from there. In the company of the first innings hero Samaraweera, he consolidated SL’s innings. He became the third Sri Lankan to score a ton in SA and his 108 also became the highest score by a Sri Lankan in SA, beating Hashan Tillakaratne’s 104* made in 2002. Dinesh Chandimal weighed in with 54, his second 50 in his debut match before bad light ended the day’s play with SL on 256/7, their lead 426 runs ahead of SA.
SA wrapped up SL early on the morning of Day 4, bowling them out for 279 to set themselves a target of 450. Dale Steyn cleaned up the tail to take 5/73.
The chase of 450 began sturdily, despite losing Graeme Smith for just 22, SA reached lunch at 86/1 with Jacques Rudolph and Hashim Amla at the crease. The next session however proved to be a disaster as SA lost 5 wickets for just 47 runs. Hashim Amla tried to take a single that was never there to be run out and in his 149th Test, Jacques Kallis recorded his first pair ever in Tests as SA collapsed to 136/6 by Tea.
AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn braved most of the next session to take SA to a respectable score, putting together a 99 run partnership for the seventh wicket. de Villiers was positive in his batting when he started but eventually slowed down to play a knock of attrition, reaching his 50 off 105 balls. Steyn was valuable in his support and at one point it began to seem that the duo could still battle their way to a draw.
The new ball was taken and the fourth over with it saw Rangana Herath get a breakthrough, as de Villiers played back to a delivery that skidded onto his pads with the angle of the turn, he was lbw for a commendable 69 off 204 balls. SA were 232/7 but with very few overs left in the day still had a chance of taking the match into the fifth day.
Dilshan struck into action three overs later to dismiss Morne Morkel lbw and Herath struck twice in the next over to wrap up the South African innings on 241, 208 runs short of their target. Herath took 5/79 in the second innings and finished the match with 9/128, spinning Sri Lanka to a famous victory and taking the Man of the Match award.
The match was SL’s first win in 16 Tests, also their first since Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement in July 2010, a sequence of games in which they lost five games and drew ten. It is also only their ninth win in a Test outside the subcontinent.
For Dilshan, it was his first win in 11 Tests in charge, a period in which he lost 4 Tests including a defeat by an innings and 81 runs inside 3 days against SA in the previous Test at Centurion. For SL and Dilshan, this much needed win will be the confidence booster they badly require to infuse self belief in a team that’s hit many lows this year.