21 July 2014
South Africa recorded a superb 153-run victory over Sri Lanka in Galle in the first test on Sunday as Hashim Amla tasted success in his first match in charge of the Proteas.
“It’s not easy at all,” Amla said at the post-match prize-giving. “Full credit to the boys. It was an outstanding effort from our side.”
On the back foot
Sri Lanka took a strong record at the ground into the contest, having won 12, lost four and drawn six games there, but from the start of the clash with the South Africans they were on the back foot.
After winning the toss, South Africa’s new test captain elected to bat and his decision was vindicated with some strong contributions from the Proteas’ batsmen.
Dean Elgar, opening the batting in place of the retired Graeme Smith, shone with 103 at the top of the order, while JP Duminy, coming in at number eight, contributed a fine 100 not.
Faf du Plessis, occupying the crucial number three position, weighed in with 80 and shared a stand of 125 for the second wicket with Elgar, while Quinton de Kock, who kept wicket, made 51.
First innings lead
Amla declared the South African first innings on 455 for 9 and his bowlers then claimed regular wickets to help the team to a strong 163 run lead on the first innings.
Captain Angelo Mathews top scored for the Sri Lankans with 89 and Upul Tharanga made 83, but only two other batsmen made it into the twenties as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 292.
Playing on a pitch that has traditionally favoured spinners, Dale Steyn bowled impeccably, sending down 23 overs and capturing 5 for 54. Morne Morkel, too, did well, knocking over 3 for 49.
Batting again, the Proteas posted 206 for 6 before Amla declared, leaving his side with plenty of time to bowl out the Sri Lankans. AB de Villiers made 51, while Alviro Petersen, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock all made scores in the thirties as the pitch took turn from the spinners.
Set a challenging 370 for victory, the home team lost Upul Tharanga early for 14, but then made it to stumps on day four on 110 for 1. However, after adding eight runs to their total at the start of the final day, Kaushal Silva fell to Steyn for 38 and wickets began to fall regularly.
Kumar Sangakkara offered strong resistance, top scoring with 76 before he hit a long hop from Duminy straight to Amla, which reduced the Sri Lankan score to 149 for 4.
With Steyn and Morkel again leading the way, Sri Lanka’s resistance crumbled and they were dismissed for just 216, with Steyn taking 4 for 45 in 17 overs and Morkel 4 for 29 in 13.3.
Man of the match
Steyn received the man of the match award after finishing with overall figures of 9 for 99, while Morkel picked up 7 for 78.
“I look at myself as someone who tries to build up the character of the side when things are tough and difficult,” Steyn said of bowling in the spin-friendly, hot conditions.”
“I think Hashim rotated us pretty well, and our spinners held the game up well from time to time. I think everybody contributed.”
He added: “Our side is pretty good. We have a great team, with great cricketers. When you’re playing with guys like that, it tends to bring the best out of everybody.
‘It is about going for the win’
Assessing his declaration, Amla said: “For me, it is about going for the win and about getting as many overs [as possible] to bowl to the opposition to win the game. I felt 370 was enough and it gave us a lot of overs, and thankfully it worked out really well.
“Steyn, Morkel, Philander, that trio is probably the best in the world, for us. I can call on them at any time and they’re giving 100 percent. As a captain, that is what you really love. But not forgetting the other bowlers, who contributed with a wicket here and there.
“On a wicket of this type of surface, you can’t rely on one bowler. There are a group of guys who have done well here together, and fortunately Dale has got the accolades today and he bowled fantastically, but for me it was a group effort as well,” Amla added.
South Africa and Sri Lanka meet in the second and final test from Thursday at the Sinhalese Sports Ground in Colombo. If the Proteas win again, they will return to number one the world test rankings.