Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis lead SL to historic series win

Written by N Krishnamurthy

Sri Lanka became the first Asian nation to win a Test series in South Africa after wrapping up a comprehensive eight-wicket triumph on Saturday.

The tourist returned to St George’s Park on Saturday requiring 137 runs to secure victory – and a 2-0 series success – inside three days and, having resumed on 60-2, did so without losing any further wickets.

It was the superb efforts of Oshada Fernando (75) and Kusal Mendis (84) that saw Sri Lanka over the line, particularly as a tough opening session had been predicted after 18 wickets fell on day two.

But after chasing down a total of over 300 in the first Test, the 197 required this time did not seem to unduly trouble the visitor, which was aggressive in its pursuit of history.

The result marks an incredible turnaround for Sri Lanka, which had conceded a 58-run first-innings lead to the Proteas after being dismissed for 154.

Sri Lanka needed 137 runs on the day – a tricky total – but they got off to a good start, with Mendis and Fernando taking on the South African fast bowlers with aplomb.

Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier were all taken for boundaries as Fernando and Mendis, growing in confidence with each stroke, brought up their 50-run partnership for the third wicket before the first drinks break.

Steyn was driven down the ground on multiple occasions by Mendis – he hit three boundaries off one Steyn over – while short and wide deliveries from Rabada and Olivier were cut and pulled on both sides of the wicket. Mendis brought up his half-century off just 52 balls, and Fernando got his off 69 deliveries, hitting seven fours and a six en route.

South Africa switched then to the spin of Keshav Maharaj, but it was to no avail. Mendis used his feet well and used the depth of the crease to punish deliveries outside his off stump. When Maharaj changed his line, they were turned away square of the wicket on the leg side.

There were very few moments of concern for the apparently unflappable Fernando and Mendis, who were much improved from the first innings, where the former was out for a duck and the latter a quick-fire 16.

Fernando’s desire to get the job done as quickly as possible was evident from the two maximums he struck, the second of which drew the scores level.

That left him with the honour of knocking off the single that sealed the win before lunch, taking the partnership up to an unbroken 163 and sparking jubilant celebrations among the travelling contingent.

About the author

N Krishnamurthy