Port Elizabeth   -    Kusal Mendis’ 84* and Oshada Fernando’s 75* helped Sri Lanka beat South Africa by eight wickets in the second Test on Saturday, 23 February – it helped complete their first-ever Test series win in South Africa.

The 2-0 series win – Sri Lanka had won the first Test in Durban by one wicket in a thriller – is also the first series victory by any Asian side in South Africa. Chasing a target of 197, and after starting the third day at 60/2, Sri Lanka finished the match in just under a session, courtesy a 163-run unbeaten stand for the third wicket.

Sri Lanka needed 137 runs on the day – a tricky total – but they got off to a good start, with Mendis and Fernando taking on the South African fast bowlers with aplomb.

Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier were all taken for boundaries as Fernando and Mendis, growing in confidence with each stroke, brought up their 50-run partnership for the third wicket before the first drinks break.

Steyn was driven down the ground on multiple occasions by Mendis – he hit three boundaries off one Steyn over – while short and wide deliveries from Rabada and Olivier were cut and pulled on both sides of the wicket. Mendis brought up his half-century off just 52 balls, and Fernando got his off 69 deliveries, hitting seven fours and a six en route.

South Africa switched then to the spin of Keshav Maharaj, but it was to no avail. Mendis used his feet well and used the depth of the crease to punish deliveries outside his off stump. When Maharaj changed his line, they were turned away square of the wicket on the leg side.

Steyn was taken for three boundaries in an over by Mendis Steyn was taken for three boundaries in an over by Mendis Sri Lanka brought up their 100 in the 25th over, and Fernando and Mendis added a 100 runs between them off just 126 balls.

A chance did come South Africa’s way when the visitors needed just 31 runs for victory. A slash by Mendis off Olivier flew through the slip cordon, brushing Hashim Amla’s outstretched hand at first slip before falling to the ground. But that was about it. Mendis and Fernando brought up their 150-run stand, and soon after, Fernando levelled scores with a six off Maharaj. A single thereafter sealed the deal for Sri Lanka .

 

South African captain Faf du Plessis called it a “massive dent” to South Africa’s confidence at the start of a “big five months of cricket ahead of us.”

“Massive dent,” he said. “I thought up until this Test series we were looking good and playing well at home, but the last two Test matches, I wish I can give you an answer but we prepared the way we do and we didn’t take them for granted. Maybe, mentally the boys were off the boil at the end of a long season, but that’s not an excuse once again. It’s probably up there with the most disappointing series loss, certainly from my own personal point of view and also from a team perspective.”

Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne said the result was unexpected. “Beating South Africa two-nil isn’t easy. When we came here, we were underdogs. But we learnt a lot of things on previous tours, and the players executed really well in these conditions. That’s why we are here. It’s a great achievement for us.”

“We had a few discussions, what I expect, what the management expects, and after that, we kept hanging together, we ate dinner together, we were together. I think we never expected to do it. But when we started winning, we had the faith. We wanted to compete. Winning is the ultimate goal, but if we do the right things, the result will definitely be good for us. Most of the guys said that but we didn’t take that seriously, because when we have additional pressure, it’s not easy.”

 

Scorecard

SOUTH AFRICA 1ST INNINGS: 222

SRI LANKA 1ST INNINGS: 154

SOUTH AFRICA 2ND INNINGS: 128

SRI LANKA 2ND INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 60-2):

D Karunaratne c De Kock b Olivier 19

L Thirimanne c De Kock b Rabada 10

O Fernando not out 75

K Mendis not out 84

EXTRAS: (b4, lb5) 9

TOTAL: (2 wkts, 45.4 overs) 197

FOW: 1-32, 2-34

BOWLING: Steyn 8-0-38-0, Rabada 15-2-53-1, Olivier

12-2-46-1, Mulder 4-1-6-0, Maharaj 6.4-0-45-0

TOSS: South Africa

UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (PAK), Ian Gould (ENG)

TV UMPIRE: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Richie Richardson (WIS)