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Dale Steyn (second left) finished with a match haul of 9 for 99 © AFP

South Africa thrashed high-flying Sri Lanka by 163 runs in the opening Test of their two-match series at Galle on Sunday. It was an all-round performance by the South Africans, as they begin a new era under Hashim Amla. Devarchit Varma analyses South Africa’s performance in the first Test.

Hashim Amla would certainly be one happy man at the moment. He has taken over the reins of one of the top cricketing nations in the international circuit, and has started it with a win. The way South Africans went about their job in the five days of the first Test deserves the richest of applause, as they never let Sri Lanka seize control and enjoy the home advantage.

South Africa may have been toppled from the top ranking in the ICC Test Championship table, but they once again proved why they deserve to be treated as top dogs. Playing in alien conditions, against an opponent that has won everything this year across all formats of the game, any side would have gotten intimidated. But South Africa did not. They stuck to what a winning side should have – belief, game plan, getting the basics right, and performance.

South Africa outperformed Sri Lanka in all departments. They put the necessary runs on board, and backed themselves to defend it. Most importantly, they did not let Sri Lanka off the hook whenever there was a chance. Such performance can be seen only with the top sides in international cricket, and South Africa are certainly among them.

Dean Elgar came on to bat at the spot where Graeme Smith used to, and it was a memorable one for him. He watched the ball carefully, and did not let the Sri Lankan spinners get the better of him on a track that suited them perfectly. But if there is someone who deserves full marks in the first Test, it has to be Jean Paul Duminy. The 30-year-old has finally hit the purple patch, and he is certainly enjoying the best phase of his career.

India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar admitted that scoring runs boosted his confidence as a bowler, and the effect of the same can be seen in Duminy as well. He might be batting way down the order in the South African line-up, but Duminy seems to be cherishing the role that he has been given in the side . The confidence that Duminy has gained in the past couple of months with the bat is showing with his spin bowling as well. Certainly, South Africa’s part-time spinner Duminy emerged the better option than frontline spinner  Imran Tahir.

Dale Steyn proved why he is the best bowler in the world. During the Test match Steyn revealed why he is more successful than his other contemporaries in the subcontinent, adding that he wants to leave a legacy. Expressing the desire is one thing and doing it is another – Steyn surely belongs to that exclusive group of winners. He bowled with a plan and earned success, and through his pace and little movement that the flat deck at Galle offered, he blew the Sri Lankans away. He bowled with aggression, and used the knowledge of subcontinent pitches fully.

On the fourth day, there was a talk about how many runs Amla wanted on the board to out-bat Sri Lanka. The new skipper’s bold declaration right after the tea break and backing his bowlers to do the job for his side was certainly laudable. South Africa have registered their only third Test win in Sri Lanka, and with only one more match to go they might as well fancy a series win. But they will have to be wary of Sri Lankan backlash.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)