South Africa win by ten wickets

South Africa’s victory gives them a 2-1 victory in the series and their first win in a series at home since they played the West Indies a few years ago. It’s an important victory for the fortunes of the team, and they thoroughly deserve it having dominated most of this series. The fact that they did win will probably come as some relief after they dominated most of a four match series against England two years ago and could only draw it 1-1. To Sri Lanka’s credit, they made them work for it on the last day. I said yesterday that Sri Lanka would need Samaraweera and Mathews to have a good partnership and for one of them or Chandimal to shepherd the tail and that is exactly what they did. Samaraweera and Mathews batted through the entire morning session and put on the highest ever fifth wicket partnership for Sri Lanka against South Africa. During this time I counted four edges falling short of the slips or ‘keeper, however, so South Africa were a bit culpable. The breakthrough finally came when a ball kept horribly low to Mathews and had him trapped LBW. After Chandimal departed not long after Samaraweera did shepherd the tail and put on over fifty with Perera. Sri Lanka grabbed a lead of one when Welegedara hit Kallis back over his head for six, the ball before Kallis uprooted leg stump, meaning South Africa would have to chase two runs to win. This prompted the sort of farce that can only be seen in cricket, as the timing of the dismissal meant that tea had to be taken before South Africa could start their chase. The first ball after the twenty minute break was a no-ball and Petersen hit what is listed on Cricinfo as a single to long on, though live I thought it had gone to the rope. (Though I had been awake for 25 straight hours by that point, so I wouldn’t consider that reliable.) The no-ball also meant that it was the first time a team had chased a total off zero deliveries.

It was a fairly frustrating day for the South Africans. I think they would have thought like I and most people did that they would have the match wrapped up by the second drinks interval. To their credit, when the wickets weren’t coming they never really dropped their heads; they kept plugging away and eventually did make the breakthrough. I couldn’t see them losing the match, or even failing to win since there was an entire day to spare, but given their past failings it would have been easy to start thinking ‘here we go again’. They didn’t though, and they deserve credit for that. Their victory will be a huge boost to their morale, and with their next series being in New Zealand they should go into England on a high. (Though there is a lot of time between the New Zealand tour and the England tour.) Despite their now a bit predictable slip up in Durban, they had a very good series. Sri Lanka were never in the first or third Tests and never looked like even saving them.

For Sri Lanka, they probably won’t be too disappointed with the result of the series. The gave away an opportunity for a very good result when they chose to bowl, but the fact that they won even one match is more than they have done before. When one considers the fact that they were without a proper bowling attack the result looks even better. The pragmatists will immediately recognise, however, that ‘better than expected’ does not equal good and they still have a log way to go. Their next series is at home against England and whilst we are yet to see how England do in the UAE, one expects that Sri Lanka will be very much second favourites.

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