SA saved by the bell

2014-07-29 00:00

IT was ugly. It was tense. It took us back to number one.

That sums up the Proteas’ performance in the second and final Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo yesterday as they played out the final day for a draw. It was enough to give the Proteas their first Test series win in Sri Lanka since 1993 and return them to the number one spot in the ICC Test rankings.

Needing 369 to win, the Proteas had no inclination of having a go and were content to play out time to ensure they took the spoils.

As is often the case when being ultra-defensive, it nearly didn’t work out and Hashim Amla’s men were saved by the bell as time ran out.

With a few short rain breaks which saw the Sri Lankans chomping at the bit, the Proteas hung on. Vernon Philander (27*) and Imran Tahir (4*) were the men at the sticks when time was called, leaving the Proteas on 159-8 from 111 overs.

Starting the day on 38-1, the Proteas endured an energy-sapping day of spin as Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera sent down the bulk of the overs on a turning wicket.

In the end, the Proteas scored a painstaking 121 runs from 94 overs as the Sri Lankan spinners gave their all.

Protea captain Hashim Amla was monumental.

His undefeated 139 in the first innings gave some respect to the Protea total and yesterday, he quelled his attacking inclination to frustrate the hosts.

He did this to the tune of nearly three hours for his 25 runs from 159 balls, with a niggling hamstring. Included in this was a sequence of 57 successive dot balls.

But none of the South African batsmen had any intention of attacking. Quinton de Kock, batting at three, had the best return of 37 from 96 balls, speeding along compared to AB de Villiers’s 12 from 67 balls, Faf du Plessis’s 10 from 49 balls and JP Duminy taking 65 balls for his three.

At the end, Sri Lanka had all their men tucked in around the bat, but Philander and Tahir held firm for nine overs. Herath was superb in the situation, finishing with 5-40 from 45 overs and Perera 3-60 in 44.

This was Sri Lanka’s second home Test series defeat since 2006 and the crowd who endured the day were forced to show their frustration toward the end of the day. As Tahir indulged in some time wasting he was met with some booing, but it all fell into place with the situation of the game.

Man of the match was Mahela Jayawardene for his 165 in Sri Lanka’s first inning and man of the series was Herath for his 17 wickets in the two Tests.

Hashim Amla said after the game: “Having the rain breaks took a few overs out of the day’s play but it was a tough battle.

“To last 111 overs on that wicket, with two quality spinners making the ball talk, is a credit to our side.”

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said: “It’s disappointing not to end up on the winning side. We did everything but South Africa are a hard team to beat, whether they play at home or away.”

SCOREBOARD

Sri Lanka 1st innings: 421 (M. Jayawardene 165, N. Dickwella 72; V. Philander 2-52)

South Africa 1st innings: 282 (H. Amla 139 n o; D. Perera 5-69)

Sri Lanka 2nd innings: 229-8 decl (K. Sangakkara 72, A. Mathews 63 n o; M. Morkel 4-45)

South Africa 2nd innings (overnight 38-1)

A. Petersen c Vithanage b Herath0

D. Elgar b Perera13

Q. de Kock c Vithanage b Herath37

H. Amla c Jayawardene b Perera25

AB de Villiers b Herath12

F. du Plessis c Jayawardene b Herath10

JP Duminy lbw b Perera3

V. Philander not out27

D. Steyn c Dickwella b Herath6

I. Tahir not out4

Extras: (b5, lb14, nb3)22

TOTAL: (for 8 wkts; 111 overs)159

Did not bat: M. Morkel

Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Petersen), 2-47 (Elgar), 3-68 (de Kock), 4-93 (de Villiers), 5-105 (Amla), 6-110 (du Plessis), 7-130 (Duminy), 8-148 (Steyn)

Bowling: Herath 45-30-40-5, Perera 44-24-60-3, Mendis 13-8-17-0, Lakmal 4-1-11-0 (3nb), Vithanage 5-1-12-0

Result: Draw

Toss: Sri Lanka.

Amla faced a total of 541 balls in the match which equates to a full day of 90 overs.

Only Gary Kirsten 275 (673 balls) has faced more in saving a Test for South Africa — Kingsmead v England, 1999.

Others who have put down the wood for South Africa are:

Neil McKenzie 138 (536 balls) — Lord’s v England, 2008

Faf du Plessis 110* (535 balls — Adelaide v Australia, 2012.

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