Rangana Herath who had played a minor role in Sri Lanka’s win at Galle came roaring back to capture the limelight with a six-wicket haul and subject South Africa to a humiliating 199-run defeat at the SSC grounds yesterday.
The leading left-arm spinner of all-time and Sri Lanka’s top wicket-taker in contemporary cricket first ended the resistance put up by Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma by breaking their partnership of 123 for the sixth wicket that was thwarting his team from winning and, having done that ripped through the rest of the batting to bowl South Africa out for 290. It was the Proteas highest total in the series following dismal figures of 126, 73 and 124 in the previous three innings.
South Africa’s Theunis de Bruyn celebrates his century and gets a pat on the back from Rangana Herath who took six wickets in the second innings.
South Africa chasing an improbable target of 490 for victory put up their best batting display of the series thanks largely to de Bruyn and Bavuma. When they resumed at their overnight score of 139-5 not many expected them to last long going by their performances in the previous three innings in the series.
But de Bruyn who found an able partner in Bavuma frustrated the Lankan spinners to the extent that they forced acting captain Suranga Lakmal to put himself on to provide the first hint of pace against South Africa for the first time in the match.
The partnership lasted for a good 130 minutes and 227 balls before Herath finally ended Bavuma’s resistance by having him caught behind by Dickwella for a fighting innings of 63 off 98 balls (4 fours).
There wasn’t much fight left in the rest of the batting after that as Quinton de Kock the last of the recognised batsman was trapped lbw by Herath for 12.
Kagiso Rabada resisted for 33 minutes for 18 runs and saw de Bruyn to his maiden Test hundred playing in his sixth Test, but an on fire Herath ended de Bruyn’s fine rearguard innings soon after. The previous ball before his dismissal spun away from the bat and de Bruyn was outfoxed by the next ball which he tended to leave and lost his off stump.
During his 288 minutes at the wicket De Bruyn taught the rest of his team mates a lesson on how to combat spin on subcontinent pitches excelling in the sweep shot combined with a solid defence and use of feet to get to the pitch of the ball. He hit 12 fours in his 232-ball knock. Batting in the fourth innings against the Lankan spin combination it was a top class effort full of skill and courage.
However, his performance came a tad too late for South Africa to have any effect on the series.
Although it was the Lankan spinners who dominated the series it was the exceptional batting of opener Dimuth Karunaratne that provided Sri Lanka with the kind of totals for them to bowl at which included his contribution in this match - 53 and 85.
Undoubtedly Karunaratne was named Man of the Match as well Man of the Series finishing head and shoulders above the rest of the batters from both sides with an aggregate of 356 (avg. 118.66).
The two teams will play a five-match ODI series starting at Dambulla on Sunday (July 29).