The Proteas celebrate the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne during Day 3 of the second Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
The Proteas celebrate the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne during Day 3 of the second Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Much needed series win for Proteas

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jan 5, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG – Test series wins have been a rarity for the Proteas of late, and this was an important one for a side that is in the middle of a rebuilding phase.

The performances in both Tests matches weren’t perfect, but they were never going to be not when half the team has played less than 10 Tests each – the seam bowling component of the eleven that played this series had 20 caps between them.

The bowlers made mistakes in both Tests, just like they and the coaching staff knew they would. But they also learned from those errors, and in Lutho Sipamla and Wiaan Mulder two exciting young talents emerged, who made significant contributions at crucial times.

Mark Boucher understands he needs to be patient, but also in that forthright manner of his he won’t allow anyone to rest on their laurels. Even here at the end of the second day he spoke about having strong words with the bowlers after Sri Lanka found life a little too comfortable in taking a lead in the third day.

“I was really pleased with how the bowlers responded to – I wouldn’t say harsh words – but words that were needed (on Monday night),” said Boucher.

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It was that kind of series for the local seamers. They got smashed around on the first day at Centurion, recovered and kept Sri Lanka to a first innings total under 400. Kusal Perera, distracted them with his adventurous approach in the first hour here Sunday and then Mulder turned it around.

They were inconsistent in the second innings but bowled enough good deliveries to frazzle Sri Lankan minds and get wickets, and ensure the fourth innings target wasn’t a tricky one for the batsmen.

They won’t get away with being so erratic against teams with fewer distractions than the Sri Lankans had here. However they should also have Kagiso Rabada back as the attack’s leader when they head to Pakistan later this month.

The batting too lacked consistency although there were two important hundreds; in the first Test by Faf du Plessis and in this match Dean Elgar. As the team’s most senior players it’s what should be expected of them, but South Africa’s batsmen had come into this series having not made a hundred since October 2019. Also the conditions, as Boucher pointed out, were difficult for the batsmen.

“The bowlers knew if they hit the right areas, they were always in the game, so it was tough, but it was good to see the guys get some runs in those conditions it will help build confidence ahead of tougher series in Pakistan and against Australia.”

Elgar was the star for the home team. Tough conditions suit him and he was the leading scorer in the series with an aggregate of 253 runs. His 13th Test century was a study in understanding and adapting to conditions. “His technique looks very good and he was nice and aggressive as well,” said Boucher.

Du Plessis’s 199 in the first Test, underlined his continued importance to the batting unit. Age in his case is but a number and with questions still unanswered about positions and the right players for the Proteas’ middle order, his contributions need to be consistently good.

For now this is a triumph worth celebrating. It’s not one which will turn South Africa into world beaters but having endured two years without a Test series win, having been battered in India, outplayed by England and shocked by Sri Lanka in 2019, this was a much needed victory for the players and for Boucher as a coach.

SCORECARD

Sri Lanka 157 (K. Perera 60. A Nortje 6/56, W. Mulder 3/25) and 211 (D. Karunaratne 103*. L. Ngidi 4/44)

South Africa 302 (D. Elgar 127, R. VD Dussen 67. V. Fernando 5/101) and 67/0 (A. Markram 36*, D. Elgar 31*)

South Africa won by 10 wickets

South Africa won the series 2-0

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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