The Proteas will be mulling over how they came to lose the first test in such a dismal way. Our cricket writer Zaahier Adams thinks he knows just what went wrong...
While it is always a lottery, winning the toss is a crucial element of winning the Test match in Galle. Hashim Amla called correctly four years ago and the Proteas had an opportunity to post a first innings total in excess of 400 that set up the historic victory. In contrast, Sri Lanka’s stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal had the coin fall correctly for him and it allowed the hosts to settle into the contest.
2. Failure to capitalise on opportunities
Despite losing the toss, the South African bowlers pegged back their hosts to 176/8 in the first innings. But instead of finishing off the tailenders, Sri Lanka added 111 runs for the final two wickets. “We've only got ourselves to blame for that situation. That (conceding lead) was a big turning point in the game,” Du Plessis lamented.
3. Simply not enough runs from the top-order
South Africa failed to score a half-century in the entire Test match with Du Plessis’s 49 being the highest. First innings runs, especially, on the subcontinent is vital and the bulk of it needs to be scored by No’s 1 – 6.
4. Mind-games battle
It is one thing wanting to play attacking cricket, but South Africa basically changed their entire batting strategy to counter the Sri Lankan spinners. The tactics failed dismally and simply played into the hands of Perera and Herath.
5. Wet outfield
With the showers overnight throughout the Test and a deluge on the opening day, despite the entire outfield being covered the ball did get wet on occasion. This neutralised South Africa’s pace attack ability to reverse-swing the ball that proved so successful here four years ago. “We know in conditions that are dry the wet ball can reverse. But because of the wet outfield and rain every day, reverse swing wasn’t a factor in this Test match,” said Du Plessis.