The Proteas celebrate the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka with Lutho Sipamla during Day 4 of the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
The Proteas celebrate the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka with Lutho Sipamla during Day 4 of the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Lots to enjoy about Proteas Test win but Lady Luck played her part too

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Dec 29, 2020

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PRETORIA – South Africa got a lot more right in this first Test win than they did wrong, including being on the right side of Lady Luck’s mood.

The Proteas did a lot of good here; learning from their mistakes with the ball after the first day, the conviction to build a massive first innings total on a difficult pitch and then the way the bowlers operated in Sri Lanka’s second innings, building pressure relentlessly. A lot of boxes were ticked by the home team, but they had a lot of help from Sri Lanka’s misfortune with injuries.

“We were in the driving seat on day one until Dhananjaya’s injury,” said Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne of Dhananjaya de Silva’s torn thigh muscle, picked up while trotting through for a single on the first day.

De Silva who retired hurt on 79 and Dinesh Chandimal had shared a 131-run stand at that stage, having initially stabilised the innings from a dangerous position at 54/3. The momentum of the innings changed completely thereafter.

“If he can continue batting we would have made over 400,” Karunaratne added. It also robbed him of a bowler, which also came back to bite him when it was South Africa’s turn to bat.

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“And then in these conditions to lose two seamers (Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara) and our finger spinner (de Silva) was a lot. In these conditions you need to give bowlers a break and we had Vishwa and Shanaka bowling a lot of overs without having a lot of rest.”

Had South Africa not taken advantage of that good fortune, they would have copped a lot of criticism of course. But it is worth remembering the Proteas haven’t had a lot of success in the Test arena of late. Coming into this Test they’d won just one out of their last nine matches, while also handing out 10 debuts. Lutho Sipamla became the 11th new Test player for the Proteas in a little less than two years in this match, which is high turnover by anyone’s reckoning.

Like winning is a habit, so is losing and the Proteas have lost too many Tests in the last few years. What they need to do from here is build.

Draw on the confidence of scoring 600 in the first innings - a score they hadn’t reached in the last five years. The rest of the batting line-up need to draw inspiration from Faf du Plessis’s mammoth 199, and push for landmarks of their own, while this young bowling unit, needs to watch what they did, particularly in the second innings here and continue to do that at the Wanderers and then onto the next Test and then the one thereafter.

At the same time Mark Boucher is trying to build a leadership core in the side to assist Quinton de Kock. The newly installed temporary Test captain said he found captaining in the five-day format a less pressurised exercise than in the limited overs matches, simply because he had more time.

“It helps to have some good leaders around me too,” said De Kock. “Guys like Dean (Elgar), Rassie (van der Dussen), Temba (Bavuma) and Faf (du Plessis) were a very big help. I’ve also learned a lot from standing next to Faf for most of my career in terms of managing the guys on the field.”

Although no longer skipper, Du Plessis still has a massive influence on the dressing room. Besides the assistance he provides to De Kock, there’s his role with the bat, which he underlined with his career best 199 providing an example of the importance of not just scoring hundreds, but big ones too.

Many of the younger players will follow the example he sets in terms of preparation as well. “It’s nice to have young guys there, but it’s very important to have some experienced guys as well, to give the team that balance between youth and experience,” said De Kock.

“But he came into bat in a pressure situation and showed the importance of that experience.”

The experience of winning has been a rare one too, one that has to be celebrated, so that the players remember the good times, and want to have many more of them.

SCORECARD

Sri Lanka - 396 all out (D. Chandimal 85, D de Silva 79, D Shanaka 66. L Sipamla 4/76, W Mulder 3/69) and 180 all out (K. Perera 64, W. Hasaranga 59. L Sipamla 2/24, W. Mulder 2/39)

South Africa 621 all out (F. Du Plessis 199, D. Elgar 95, K Maharaj 73. Hasaranga 4/171, Fernando 3/129)

South Africa won by an innings and 45 runs.

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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