Proteas back to No. 1 with test series win

29 July 2014

South Africa returned to the top of the ICC test cricket rankings on Monday with a hard-fought draw in the second test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, securing only their second series win in the island nation. The Proteas previously triumphed in Sri Lanka in 1993.

‘Awe, pride and great excitement’

Cricket South Africa (CSA) CEO Haroon Lorgat praised the team, saying in a statement: “The performances of our players in Sri Lanka over the last month has left us breathless at times and have also produced moments of awe, pride and great excitement.

“This is the first South African squad to triumph in both the ODI and test series in Sri Lanka and the last time we achieved this on the sub-continent was in Pakistan back in 2007.

“It took great courage and tenacity to support the talents of our world-class players to achieve these series wins. They have now set the bar high for the 2014/15 season, which reaches a climax with the ICC World Cup in Australasia in February and March.”

Leadership

Lorgat also congratulated the team’s leaders, adding: “It is hard to find the right words to congratulate our new leadership team of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Russell Domingo.

“Hashim has made a wonderful start to his reign as captain of the test squad from every possible point of view, whether you look at his personal contributions with the bat, or his calm presence that he brings to the team, or his inspiring leadership and tactical acumen that was evident in his declarations in the first test match.

“There will always be stand-out individuals in any match, but this was truly a team effort in getting us across the line in a tense finish and, on behalf of CSA and our loyal fans, I extend warm congratulations to all the players and team management.”

A battling, defiant display

It took a battling, defiant display from Amla and company at the Sinhalese Sports Club to claim the second test draw as they found the going tough batting on a pitch that was tailor-made for the Sri Lankan spinners.

Almost from the start of the match, the Proteas were on the back foot. They reduced Sri Lanka to 16 for 2 early on, but the home team recovered strongly and went on to post 421 all out, with Mahela Jayawardene striking 165 runs before he was run out.

Niroshan Dikwella was also run out, but not before he had made 72, while captain Angelo Mathews weighed with 63 runs.

Amla unbeaten

In reply, South Africa mustered 282 all out to trail by a considerable 139 runs on the first innings. That was exactly the number of runs captain Hashim Amla contributed. He finished unbeaten too, but only three other batsmen made it into the thirties, and just one more reached double figures.

Left arm spinner Rangana Herath enjoyed the conditions, snaring 4 for 71 after opening the bowling with Suranga Lakmal, while off-spinner Dilruwan Perera claimed 5 for 69.

Batting again, the Sri Lankans declared their second innings on 229 for 8, led by 72 from Kumar Sangakkara and an undefeated 63 by Matthews. Morne Morkel shone with the ball, knocking over 4 for 45.

Played for the draw

Set 369 for victory, South Africa played for the draw and series victory and were aided by occasional rain.

When the match concluded, the Proteas had reached 159 for 8 in their second innings off 111 overs, with the run rate of 1.43 emphasising just how difficult it had been to resist the Sri Lankan spinners on a turning track.

Quinton de Kock top scored with 37, while Amla’s innings of 25 took 159 balls and 10 minutes short of three hours. He played a major role in the outcome of the contest, facing 541 balls in his two innings, the equivalent of 90 overs, or a full day’s play.

Herath returned the astonishing figures of 5 for 40 off of 45 overs, with 30 maidens, while Perera took 3 for 60 in 44 overs, with 24 maidens, as the spinners opened the bowling for Sri Lanka.