They were always going to be up against it chasing 352 runs to win on a turning track, but few would’ve expected the speedy nature of the Proteas’ capitulation to Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The South Africans lost all 10 wickets in the second session to lose the first Test by 278 runs as they were bowled out for 73 – their lowest score since readmission in 1992.
Spinner Dilruwan Perera was the chief destroyer, claiming 6/32 in the second innings and 10 in the match.
The Proteas batsmen played some careless shots and employed a strange strategy of charging down the pitch to try to deal with Perera and left-arm spin veteran Rangana Herath.
The rot started early as Dean Elgar danced down the wicket to Perera and missed it completely in the sixth over to be stumped by Niroshan Dickwella for four.
Then Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma were snared at leg slip by Dhananjaya de Silva off Perera, and suddenly it was 24/3.
And when captain Faf du Plessis edged Herath to Angelo Mathews at first slip for one, the game was all but over.
Aiden Markram followed his opening partner Elgar’s example by racing down the pitch to Herath, only to miss it and be stumped for 14 as the South African batsmen failed to occupy the crease and try to grind it out.
The dramatic collapse overshadowed the fact that Dale Steyn equalled Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421 wickets as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 190 in their second innings.
The second Test starts in Colombo next week Friday.