Centurion, December 29
South Africa took little time in closing out an innings and 45-run victory over a depleted Sri Lanka in the first Test on Tuesday as the tourists’ promising start to the match and the series was undone by a string of injuries.
Four of the five Sri Lankans to get hurt during the Test still came out to bat in a vain effort to save their team, but it didn’t matter.
South Africa’s fast bowlers needed just over a session on the fourth day to finish off Sri Lanka’s second innings. Sri Lanka, starting the day on 65-2 and facing defeat, was bowled out for 180 in 46.1 overs.
All-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva was the one casualty who wasn’t able to bat at all because of his thigh injury, meaning South Africa needed just nine wickets in the end to win.
South Africa took five wickets in the day’s first session and finished Sri Lanka off with the last two wickets less than half-an-hour after lunch, despite some resistance from Kusal Perera (64) and Wanindu Haranga (59).
South African pacers Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wiaan Mulder and Lutho Sipamla all collected two wickets each in the innings.
Sri Lanka’s heavy defeat was the result of a marked turnaround in the Test after the Sri Lankans made a strong start, posting 396 in the first innings for their best Test total in South Africa.
But Sri Lanka was depleted by the stream of players leaving the field injured: De Silva left on the first day while batting, fast bowler Kasun Rajitha was injured on Day 2 having bowled just 13 deliveries, and bowlers Lahiru Kumara and Haranga and batsman Dinesh Chandimal were hurt on Monday.
“We were in the driving seat … but unfortunately we lost a couple of bowlers and that’s how it ended up like this,” said Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne.
The absence of frontline quicks Rajitha and Kumara especially exposed the Sri Lankan bowling attack and South Africa’s batsmen were ruthless in the one innings they needed to settle the game.
South Africa made 621 in its first innings in response to Sri Lanka’s 396, with 199 from Faf du Plessis, 95 from Dean Elgar and half-centuries from three other players.
Du Plessis missing out on a first career double-century by one run was the only semblance of disappointment for the Proteas.
“Unfortunately one short, but it’s always good to contribute in a big way to set your team up for a win,” said Du Plessis.
Both teams were playing their first Test since January after having series canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Sri Lanka’s injury woes have been partly caused by the virus, said coach Mickey Arthur.
Lockdowns and curfews gave the squad little chance to prepare for the tour to South Africa, with no three- or four-day warm-up matches in the build-up to the series. The Sri Lankans’ only preparation was a domestic T20 competition.
The second Test in Johannesburg follows quickly, starting on January 3, and Sri Lanka may need to change nearly half its team depending on the seriousness of the injuries. De Silva is definitely out for the final Test, while Rajitha and Kumara are unlikely to be fit.
“If the world was normal I don’t think we’d be in this situation,” Arthur said, “because I think the conditioning would be perfect and I think the guys would be ready to go.”
“Luckily we brought 21 players, otherwise it would be batting coach Grant Flower at No. 3 and me at No. 4 in the next Test.” AP