Hashim Amla scored a ton in the second Test © AFP
The new era under Hashim Amla got off to a bright start with South Africa registering their first Test series win in Sri Lanka in 21 years. Abhijit Banare looks at some of the key points of note from the short series.
Dale Steyn’s spell on a turner: Dale Steyn keeps reminding one of the cliché about class being permanent. Taking a five-for in the first innings was no surprise. But when everyone expected possibly a spinner to dominate in the second essay, Steyn bagged four. There was not much in the wicket for the pacers but that’s when players like Steyn are class apart. Even Angelo Mathews was all praise for the pacer: “Not too many fast bowlers end up with nine-wicket hauls in Galle.”
Dean Elgar replaces Smith while JP Duminy shines at No 7: It was a much discussed affair. The Proteas already had a No 4 to replace Jacques Kallis in Faf du Plessis or AB de Villiers. But what about an able replacement for Graeme Smith? Dean Elgar was the most likely candidate but hardly infused as much assurance as du Plessis or de Villiers. Scoring a ton on Day One of the first Test of an overseas tour can infuse a lot of confidence in the team and Elgar’s ton was not just about finding an able opener but giving Proteas the right start to the series.
After the flourish at the top, South Africa slipped badly on Day One. But they found another one to rescue them. JP Duminy seems to be the best No 7 playing in the Test now. His unbeaten ton and Quinton de Kock’s fifty ensured the quicks come out and bowl to a Lankan side under pressure with over 400 on board.
Angelo Mathews — new run-machine for Sri Lanka: In his last 16 innings, Angelo Mathews has hit three centuries and six fifties and has been unbeaten two innings. The 89 he scored in the first Test at Galle was the most interesting of the three fifties. While the Lankan innings was crumbling, Mathews was attacking especially Imran Tahir.
South Africa and the ease with batting fourth: If Johannesburg and the Adelaide thrillers were not enough, here’s another one from South Africa to remember. Facing 111 overs for 159 takes the definition of ‘defensive cricket’ to a different level altogether. Having done it before, the Proteas went along achieving this task nonchalantly. This was a different kind of challenge though as they had to face three spinners on the final day of a subcontinent pitch.
Vernon Philander’s batting record: In the quest for grinding Lankan spinners, Vernon Philander has achieved a unique record of facing most number of balls in the fourth innings without being dismissed. Not a bad record for a No 8 batsman. Philander has faced 258 balls in four unbeaten innings. Facing 98 balls for 25 under pressure.
New finds for Lanka: Dilruwan Perera is no youngster to bank for the future but neither was Rangana Herath. Despite Ajantha Mendis being off-colour, Perera had done a fine job drag the Proteas down. A five-for in the first innings at Colombo followed by three in the second makes him an ideal second spinner if Mendis fails to deliver. But one youngster they can certainly watch out for is Niroshan Dickwella. With Lanka on 285 for five, the debutant played a fine innings of 72 to bail the team out along with Mahela Jayawardene.
Triumph of Hashim Amla’s captaincy: The media had spent enough time dwelling in to the huge responsibility for Hashim Amla, the second coloured captain and the void created by Graeme Smith. Amla was impressive with his quick thinking throughout the series. He used his quicks well and also took the huge gamble of providing an achievable target for Sri Lanka on Day Five. With a ton under his belt, Amla seemed to have struck the perfect chord balancing his batting and the captaincy duties.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)