Just a push off Oshada Fernando’s bat to mid-wicket for 1 run. It was a subdued end to what has been a phenomenal Test series in South Africa. Sri Lanka has secured arguably their most prestigious away Test series win, if not the greatest overall.
If you try to explain what has happened in this Test series to the average guy, who maybe hasn’t been watching much of the cricket over the past few weeks, he wouldn’t be able to fathom it. The performance of the Sri Lankan team over the recent past would’ve left no room for a result like this. Everything was in disarray. They have been bullied by every opposition, wherever they went. (May be that’s why that guy wasn’t really watching much of the cricket!)
But the Sri Lankans have punched above their weight in this series, to, dare we say it, announce a grand comeback. This series will go down as a statistician’s nightmare for the sheer mis-match between competitors and the final outcome.
Two weeks ago, if someone had told you Sri Lanka were going to win the Test series against South Africa 2-0, you’d have…
Sri Lanka came to South African shores without their regular captain Dinesh Chandimal. The battle then was between South Africa’s skipper Faf du Plessis, who has led his team to 7 Test series victories and stand-in skipper for Sri Lanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, who has never captained the Sri Lankan side before.
Du Plessis 0 – 2 Karunaratne
The craziest stat that will make your eye-balls roll is the bowlers’ performances in this series. At one end you have the young but mature Kagiso Rabada of the ‘House of Fast & Furious’, who is feared all over the world, accompanied by the man with 439 Test wickets under his belt, Dale Steyn of the ‘House of Red-hot & Restless’. Red-hot, when he’s on song and restless, he is, always. Throw in the tall and broad shouldered Duanne Olivier of the ‘House of Bouncers and Bumpers’ into the mix and you get a bowling attack any captain would dream of. Du Plessis wasn’t dreaming. He was living the dream. All he had to do was unleash these swordsmen into the “22 yards” and they would destroy any opposition in one swipe.
At the other end, Sri Lanka came into this series with a depleted bowling attack. Their front-line seamers were injured. Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera were unavailable and they had to call for replacements. Who was Karunaratne left with? The spearhead of this inexperienced attack, veteran Suranga Lakmal, who would always give his 120 percent even if it came down to him having just one working leg, Vishwa Fernando of the ‘House of Unknown’ and Kasun Rajitha of the ‘House of Unheard of’.
So, you know where the odds were, but Vishwa Fernando and Kasun Rajitha were exceptional with the ball as they outperformed their senior partner.
Rabada/Steyn/Olivier 21 – 26 Fernando/Rajitha/Lakmal
Sri Lanka have rewritten the history books after a comfortable win at Port Elizabeth, beating hosts South Africa….
Then, the comparison between the practitioners of the tricky science of slow left arm orthodox. Sri Lankans has seen enough of Keshav Maharaj when they played at SSC last year. If not for Rabada’s only wicket, he would have become the 3rd bowler in the history of Test cricket to bag a 10-fer in an innings.
But Sri Lanka threw in a newbie, Lasith Embuldeniya into the ring, axing the likes of the more experienced Dilruwan Perera and Malinda Pushpakumara. On South African pitches, against their mighty batsmen, you would think this would be a nightmare for young Embuldeniya. He has shown decent skill with the ball in domestic cricket, but who would have thought he would beat his 25-Test-old counterpart in just his debut series without even bowling in an innings?
Maharaj 4-6 Embuldeniya
Former Sri Lanka all-rounder Farveez Maharoof and ThePapare.com Cricket Manager Damith Weerasinghe discuss….
After the first Test win, after that “Ranatungesque” late cut to the third-man boundary, one might have believed that the first win was a fluke, a result of some magic from Kusal ‘superman’ Perera. They say, lightning doesn’t strike twice, but lightning was never needed to strike again for Sri Lanka as their bowlers showed great fight to keep them in the game.
Sri Lanka’s batting card was a bit rich with the likes of the highest scoring Test opener of last year Dimuth Karunaratne and the 1000 run scorer of 2018 Kusal Mendis in its ranks, but both were out of form coming to South Africa. South Africa with their star-studded batting line-up, Quinton de Kock the 8th, Aiden Markram the 9th, Faf du Plessis the 10th, Hashim Amla the 13th and Dean Elgar the 16th on the ICC Test batting rankings, looked more than formidable from the opposition’s view.
Sri Lanka was in trouble again! They were missing their middle order stalwarts, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. Apart from Mendis and Karunaratne, they had a debutant at number 03, a failed middle order batman turned opener and a man who had been axed in the last series at number 05.
Yet somehow, the result,
SA top seven 725-753 SL top seven
The hosts had never been beaten at home in a Test series since the last World Cup and no Asian team had returned home from South Africa with a trophy in their hands. Wait, no other team, APART FROM England and Australia had returned home from South Africa with a trophy in their hands! Sri Lanka lost their last home series 3-0, to England of all teams, last away series 2-0 and had no wins under their belt for 5 months in ANY FORM of the game!
This was the most “David vs Goliath” story of our time, in cricket.
It’s hard to explain why Sri Lanka was better than the celebrated South Africans in this series. When Embuldeniya dislocated his thumb mid-way through the 2nd match, Dhananjaya de Silva turned up with the ball. They even fielded well, there were direct hits from the Sri Lankan fielders! Somehow, all those replacements, from the Captain, to the bowlers and batsmen, all worked out and the South Africans were caught surprised. It was a series made in cricketing heaven.
The fighter behind the microphone who never give up on his team, Russel Arnold summarized it better than anyone after that subdued single. “Who would have thought when Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa, down in the dumps, they waited to arrive, in the land of the big five, for the lions to roll back to life”