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South Africa tour of Sri Lanka 2014: Dale Steyn an unbelievable bowler, says Angelo Mathews

Dale Steyn (left) ripped Sri Lanka apart with nine wickets at Galle © AFP
Dale Steyn (left) ripped Sri Lanka apart with nine wickets at Galle © AFP

by Abhaya Srivastava

Colombo: Jul 22, 2014

An upbeat South Africa will look to carry their winning momentum in the second Test against Sri Lanka beginning on Thursday, and break a 21-year-old jinx on the island. The Proteas, the current world number two, have not won a Test series in Sri Lanka since 1993 when they first toured the country and beat the hosts 1-0.

On their next three tours, they won one Test while losing two series and drawing one. But a new dawn seems to be beckoning for the visitors after they won the first Test in Galle on Sunday by 153 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series, and hand Hashim Amla a winning start to his captaincy. “Not many teams have come here and won a Test series so it’s obviously on the back of our minds,” said Amla, the first non-white player to lead South Africa in a full-time capacity.

Amla, 31, was named captain last month following the retirement of Graeme Smith who led the Proteas in a record 109 Tests. Amla’s debut leadership was unconventional and daring, evident in the way he declared the innings at tea on the fourth day rather than take the safer option of batting out the last session. It meant the hosts needed to score 370 runs in four sessions to win the match.

At one point, it appeared the game was slipping away from South Africa but fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel ripped through the top order on the fifth morning to ensure a well-deserved win. Steyn will again be crucial at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club ground, where South Africa won by an innings and 208 runs in 1993 thanks to fast bowlers Allan Donald and Brett Schultz.

Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews conceded that Steyn would be a big factor in Colombo. “Steyn is an unbelievable bowler, any captain would love to have a guy like him in his side,” he said. “On that flat wicket (in Galle), he came out really hard and bowled fast. Not too many fast bowlers end up with nine-wicket hauls in Galle.”

The other concern for Mathews, apart from Steyn, was the middle order that has failed to click, even in the preceding one-dayers which South Africa won 2-1, their first ODI series win in Sri Lanka. “Right from the ODI series, our middle-order batting has not been delivering,” the Sri Lankan skipper said. “We have seven batters in the side and to expect only one player to deliver all the time is wrong.”

Mathews can rely on at least one player to come good with the bat in the decider — Mahela Jayawardene has scored 10 hundreds at Colombo — the most by any batsman at a single venue. Jayawardene, 37, is due to retire next month after a two-Test series at home against Pakistan. A victory at Colombo will see Amla’s men reclaim the number one ranking they lost to Australia recently after two years at the top.

The last time South Africa played a Test series in Sri Lanka in 2006, they lost 2-0, but only three players from that tour are part of the current side.

Complete coverage of South Africa’s tour of Sri Lanka here

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