It’s that kind of day where one of the best teams in the world puts on a batting display akin to a division three side that has played matting cricket for most of the tournament and then finally gets a match against a side on a pitch which offers turn and bounce.
The South Africans have been shot out inside three days by a clinical Lankan performance. They have also requested that they be allowed some center-wicket training on the same pitch during the remaining two days so that they may prepare for the next match.
The unsung hero for Sri Lanka, Dilruwan Perera, does not offer many words but gives a friendly smile and goes about his business silently, to produce his best bowling figures in Test cricket, 10 for 78, his second 10-wicket haul in Tests; his 6 for 32 in the second innings is also his best innings figures. His only other 10-wicket haul was also in Galle, against Australia in 2016, when he took 10 for 99.
“Dilruwan worked hard a lot in the last few months. As a result, he was bowling well today. Dilruwan and Rangana changed the whole game.” Suranga Lakmal, who notched up his second win in as many games as captain, said after the match.
Perera controls one end when Rangana Herath takes wickets and vice-versa, Herath plays second fiddle when Perera takes wickets from one end.
The pair almost broke a 116-year old record – two spinners, having bowled unchanged, scalping all ten wickets in the innings, but were thwarted by Lakshan Sandakan, who took the final wicket.
They also became the fourth pair of spinners to open the bowling in each innings of a Test. Herath and Dilruwan are ferocious when they bowl in tandem and they complement each other so well, especially in Galle where the going is never easy for visiting batsmen.
“Rangana is one of the leading left arm spinners in the world. No questions on that matter. Dilruwan too had been bowling pretty well during the last couple of years. Both of them, are two leading spinners in the world at the moment. Especially in Galle, they have won matches for us. I hope they will continue the good work they have been doing.” Was what skipper Lakmal had to say on the pair’s performance.
The Proteas innings lasted just 116 minutes; 13 minutes in the first session, 103 minutes in the post-lunch session. They started off cautiously and then the first wicket, that of Dean Elgar, fell at 12.50pm with the last dismissal, Tabraiz Shamsi, falling at 2.23pm. Inside those 93 minutes, 10 wickets fell thanks to some exceptional spin bowling, good catching and poor shot selection on a rank-turner.
Some of the strokes attempted by the visitors were irrational, chasing 352 runs to win, both the openers were dismissed in similar fashion, stumped after running down the wicket at the spinners. None of the batsmen showed fight to in the very least drag the game to the fourth day.
“We weren’t good enough. We expected it to be tough coming here. We know the Sri Lankan spinners are very, very good, especially in their own conditions. We weren’t up to par, so we need to make sure we get better if we want to compete in this series. If we don’t, then Sri Lanka will be on top of us.” South African captain Faf Du Plessis stated.
The Proteas will try hard to forget their batting performance on day three and move on but the way that the Sri Lankans exposed their batting lineup will no doubt leave some scars on what could be called one of the darkest days in the history of South African Cricket.
Man of the Match, Dimuth Karunarathne was the only batsman from both teams to score a hundred or a half century as he made two match-winning knocks, unbeaten 158 in the first innings and 60 in the second innings, a total of 218 which is 19 runs more than the combined total of South Africa in both innings, 199 (126 and 73).
“When you are playing spin bowling you need to have a defense, but more than that you have to dominate the spinners before they dominate you. That’s the biggest thing when you are playing spin. If you give them a chance to dominate you, they will step all over you. To avoid that I use my feet, and I’m trying to create scoring opportunities by doing as much as I can. What I’m trying to do is make them bowl in areas that are good scoring zones for me. If you move around the crease and take a little risk when scoring those runs, you can get the bowlers to bowl where you want them to.” Karunarathne gave a slight insight on how he managed to score runs at the Galle surface.