THE Castle Lager Proteas added Colombo 2014 to the defiant memories of Adelaide 2012 and Johannesburg 2013 as they fought their way to a tense draw in the final Test match against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club on Monday.
The draw enabled them to win only their second Test series in Sri Lanka after winning the opening match by 153 runs at Galle just over a week ago and also regained for them the ICC No. 1 World Test ranking from Australia which they lost when the annual review was held in April.
The match went right down to the wire with Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir defending desperately for the last eight overs with only Morne Morkel left to bat.
It was an heroic rearguard action from the moment that Sri Lanka won the toss and posted 421 in their first innings, leaving the Proteas to struggle on a deteriorating pitch as early as day two on a surface that was particularly testing for their four left-handers.
Hashim Amla, in winning his first series as captain, made a monumental contribution, not just by scoring his 22nd Test match century but in facing all of 541 balls which amounted to a full day’s play of 90 overs.
Only Gary Kirsten (673) has faced more balls in saving a Test match for South Africa (Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, (1999) and other players in this category are Neil McKenzie (536 balls at Lord’s in 2008) and Faf du Plessis (535 balls at Adelaide in 2012).
Philander’s contribution at the end was another vital one as he showed impressive composure in making his unbeaten 27 off 98 balls, 5 fours, using up 105 minutes in the process.
Sri Lanka will feel unlucky to have lost vital time to passing rain showers throughout the day. It was indeed a bitter-sweet moment for Man of the Match, Mahela Jayawardene, whose first innings of 165 gave Sri Lanka the platform to strike for victory and also took two catches on the final day to join the 200 catch club along with Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis.
Their two spinners, Rangana Herath (5/40 in 45 overs) and Dilruwan Perera (3/60 in 44 overs) both performed magnificently with the latter taking 17 wickets in the series. This earned him the Man of the Series award.
What will have been pleasing for the Proteas was to get a draw after losing the toss. It was their first match of the tour (ODI’s and Tests) in which the side winning the toss and batting first did not end up on the winning side.