Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, 1st test: Five things we learned

Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, 1st test: Five things we learned

The Hashim Amla era got off to a tantalising start with a Test that had everything from controversy to class. A solid team effort saw South Africa secure victory over Sri Lanka in the first Test at Galle. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks out five key points from the Test.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 153 runs in Galle in their first Test on Sunday. It was the first time ever that they had won when declaring twice away from home. Centuries from Dean Elgar and JP Duminy in the first innings helped South Africa to a solid 455 run total.

Then Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel pegged Sri Lanka back before AB de Villiers’ feisty half ton helped South Africa pile on more runs. Amla’s declaration challenged convention, but it could not have been more perfect. Despite a Kumar Sangakkara blitz late on day four, South Africa cruised to a massive win with Steyn once again bashing records at will.

Barring the Vernon Philander ball tampering incident, South Africa were emphatic. Amla’s first Test as captain is done and dusted and it ensures that their record of not losing an away series away from home for eight years will remain intact. There were plenty of lessons from the Test, though, and here are five of them.

Hashim Amla is going to change some conventional approaches

By South Africa’s usual standards, Hashim Amla’s second innings declaration was quite pragmatic. He had also sent JP Duminy a warning in the first innings letting him know that he needs to get on with it if he wants his century since the declaration will come in the next 10 overs. Amla also kept his spinners on late on the third day, despite them being whacked all over the place and the new ball being available. He’s not made any howlers just yet, but he certainly has done things a little bit differently. The most important thing is his declaration. Not overly risky in the grander scheme of things, but ballsy by cricket’s conventional standards.

Quinton de Kock will be just fine with a bit of tweaking

Quinton de Kock’s temperament is always being questioned. While nobody doubts that he will be a great Test player one day, some doubt exists over whether he is ready now. At times, he still looked clueless against spin, but a tidy 50 in the first innings and more catches than any other keeper in their first Test as keeper calmed some of the caution for the time being. Behind the stumps, he looks quite comfortable and while his batting probably needs some tweaking, it’s hard to see De Villiers taking up the gloves again anytime soon.

Dale Steyn is the best non-Asian fast bowler in sub-continental conditions

Dale Steyn’s nine wickets saw him overtake Courtney Walsh as being the non-Asian fast bowler with the most wickets in the subcontinent. He has 80 wickets in these countries now, pipping Walsh’s 77. There are a host of other stats, like best strike-rate, most five-fors in wins and the fact that he can still crank up the pace to over 150km/h. It’s not like it was ever in doubt, but Steyn once again reaffirmed that he is indeed the best bowler in the world.

Imran Tahir is just not effective as a Test spinner

On a turning wicket with conditions very much suited to the slow bowlers, Imran Tahir couldn’t buy a wicket. The leggie is still far too impatient and still has far too many poor balls. He still far too often releases the pressure when he should be containing it. His limited overs performances have been really solid, but as a Test player, he hasn’t quite performed. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see Dane Piedt get the nod in the second Test – he certainly can’t do much worse than Tahir has.

Ball management remains a contentious, but poorly understood issue

Vernon Philander was caught with his tails on the rough side of the ball, again. It has raised many opinions from all corners of the globe, with Australian Ryan Harris calling it “the same as match-fixing”. Ball management, or tampering as some call it, is something that takes on many different forms. South Africa have now been caught doing it twice in a very short space of time. Both times, they were caught by TV execs, and not because the on-field umpires got a sniff that they were doing anything dodgy. In this instance, the ball had not even been changed. That tells you everything you need to know about how prevalent it is. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that somebody is out to get South Africa since it’s the cameras who keep catching them. Others will tell you that they are just a little bit silly to keep on doing it so blatantly. The point is: it is a practice that is far more common than you might think, and something that warrants a revisit to the laws since the lines are blurred. But more on that here.

Scorecard summary:

South Africa 455 for 9 dec (Elgar 103, Duminy 100*) and 206 for 6 dec (De Villiers 51, D Perera 4-79) beat Sri Lanka 292 (Mathews 89, Tharanga 83, Steyn 5-54) and 216 (Sangakkara 76, Morkel 4-29, Steyn 4-45) by 153 runs. DM

Photo: South African fast bowler Dale Steyn reacts after taking the wicket of Australian batsman Shaun Marsh (not pictured) on the first day of the cricket test match between Australia and South Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, 09 November 2011. EPA/NIC BOTHMA


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.