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 thought they were stark raving mad! But then Kusal Perera pulled a rabbit out of a hat and suddenly, the visitors were 1-0 ahead in the series.
Surely, a bowling line-up that had the likes of Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada would come to Port Elizabeth with one thing on their minds – vengeance! Sri Lanka were ready for it! Here’s the story of Sri Lanka’s historic win in the 2nd Test at St George’s Park captured through our lenses!
19th February – T minus 48 hours for Day 1
After the stupendous effort to get over the line in the 1st Test, Sri Lanka were now in with a real chance of creating history as the only team other than Australia and England to win a Test series in South Africa. But they were dealt a bit of a blow when their No. 4 batsman and best performer from 2018, Kusal Mendis rolled his ankle at training just 2 days before the Test began.
21st February – Day 1
South Africa won the toss and decided to bat – a decision which Sri Lanka wouldn’t have minded one bit, considering the conditions. Vishwa Fernando was the main man once again, sending Deal Elgar packing early.
Faf Du Plessis and Aiden Markram got things going and looked to be in control but the lunch break neared and Faf was dismissed once again, this time by his opposite number Dimuth Karunaratne. 17/3, Bavuma run-out in the 1st innings, Du Plessis dismissed JUST before lunch…. Anyone else getting a sense of dejavu?
Cometh the hour, cometh the de Kock. Quinton de Kock got his 3rd 50 in as many innings this series, putting on 77 for the 5th wicket with Markram and 59 for the 8th wicket alongside Kagiso Rabada. Sri Lanka closed things out for 222.
Somewhere in the midst of it all, Lasith Embuldeniya was struck on his thumb attempting a catch off his own bowling – boom, dislocation, surgery, 6 weeks of recovery! He’s smiling here, but I bet it hurt!
The two southpaws Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne came out to bat and the South African pacies were at their menacing best. Rabada did the business with Karunaratne and Duanne Olivier then proved to be just too quick for Oshada Fernando. Sri Lanka in trouble on 34/2.
22nd February – Day 2
Day 2 dawned with Sri Lanka hopeful – especially with ‘Superman’ Kusal Perera at the crease. The southpaw didn’t last long, despite crashing a few boundaries and neither did night-watchman Kasun Rajitha. KG the man with the wickets.
South Africa came into bat with a 68-run lead, chests out, ready to grind Sri Lanka to dust. But… you guessed it, Vishwa Fernando with the ball, Dean Elgar with the bat… you know what happened! Bunny alert!
The game was more or less gone, I mean, the lead was nearing 100, South Africa had 9 wickets in hand and surely, Sri Lanka couldn’t hope for another miracle? But it seemed like the Sri Lankans didn’t get the memo – Kasun Rajitha got Markram, his “c’mon” echoing around the grounds.
A Sri Lankan performance in the field wouldn’t be complete without a missed catch or two now would it? But there were some good ones in their too!
The smiling assassin Sura wasn’t about to let things go without a fight either, he whipped and weaved his way through the South African lower order – crucially claiming the wicket of Quinton de Kock cheaply too!
Okay then. 197 to win. But you can bet those 197 were going to be hard. Karunaratne and Thirimanne looked comfortable and then really uncomfortable, dismissed within the space of an over. Sri Lanka 34/2.
23rd February – Day 3
Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando had survived a tough spell at the end of day 2. Now they were back for more on day 3. Olivier and Rabada beat the bat but slowly, ever so slowly, the pair began to gain in confidence. Mendis looking untouchable as he greeted Dale Steyn with 3 boundaries. 50 run partnership? Check! 100-run Partnership? Check!
Both batmen went past 50 and South Africa were running ragged. Faf du Plessis tried Steyn, he tried Olivier, he tried Rabada, Maharaj, Mulder.
That breakthrough and collapse everyone was expecting? It never came! 7 to win, Oshada Fernando steps out and boom, over the fence – match tied. He took a single next and sealed history in favour of Sri Lanka. 2-0….. and 4-0 over the last year!