Karunaratne, Mendis, Perera savour Sri Lanka’s historic triumph
Kusal Mendis scored an unbeaten 84. (AFP Image)

Sri Lanka etched themseleves in the record books as they became the first team from Asia to win a Test series in South Africa. Sri Lanka, who registered a stunning nine-wicket win in the first Test in Durham, blanked South Africa 2-0 after chasing down a 197-run target in Port Elizabeth with Oshada Fernando and Kusal Mendis forging an unbeaten 163-run partnership.

The win has put smiles back on the faces of Sri Lanka players, having endured back-to-back series losses in the lead-up to the South Africa Tests. A beaming Dimuth Karunaratne was clearly over the moon.

“It is a great feeling for us as a team. It isn’t easy coming to South Africa and winning 2-0. The guys played really well, they enjoyed themselves a lot and that’s why we have created history,” Karunaratne said.

“We have learnt a lot of things in Australia and the players wanted to do something special. They stuck to the basics and executed it well because of which we are here. The youngsters in particular did really well; so did the bowling line-up. The only concern was the batting in the first innings, but the bowlers did a great job in keeping us in the game. I would like to dedicate this win to all the Sri Lankan fans who supported us when we were losing.”

Resuming at 60 for two, Fernando and Mendis batted positively from the start of play, scoring nine runs off the second over of the day, bowled by Kagiso Rabada. Mendis was dropped on 70 when a leaping Hashim Amla at first slip could only get his fingertips to a slash against Duanne Olivier. By then, though, only 31 runs were needed, and the target was knocked off shortly with Mendis walking away with the Player-of-the-Match award.

“I am very happy that I did well in this game and would like to continue my form from 2018. Would also like to thank the support staff, the physio – since I had twisted my ankle – and would like to thank the entire team,” Mendis said, who scored 225 runs against New Zealand but could tally just 112 in two Tests against Australia.

The other Kusal, Kusal Perera was adjudged Player of the Series for his sensational knock of 153 not out and 51 in Durban. In his only opportunity in Port Elizabeth, Perera scored 20 before he was dismissed by Rabada, but the impact it created in Durham and the belief it instilled in Sri Lanka promises to have gone a long way behind this historic triumph.

“I had a lot of good comments about my innings in the last game and it makes me feel really good. Fernando did really well for us, but credit goes to every single player. Normally coaches tell me to back myself and play my normal game. I play to my strengths and know that I will get the results if I do that. I am really happy to have won 2-0,” Perera said.