Steyn and Morkel sink Sri Lanka


Fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel completed a collective match haul of 16 wickets, as South Africa comfortably beat Sri Lanka by 153 runs on day five of the first Test in at the Galle International Stadium on Sunday.

Hashim Amla got his captaincy career off to the perfect start when he led the Proteas to victory by 153 runs in the opening Test match against Sri Lanka at Galle on Sunday.

As Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews admitted afterwards the Proteas bossed the game on all five days and lost only 15 wickets with Amla having the unusual luxury in this country of being able to declare in both innings.

This ranks as one of the greatest Proteas victories of all time and certainly bears comparison with Nagpur in 2010 and The Oval and Perth, both in 2012, among recent memorable wins.

It was also highly encouraging that the Proteas should start the series so well because this is something they have sometimes failed to do in the past and was evident in their three most recent series against Pakistan, India and Australia.

Amla afterwards justifiably praised all his players for a good team performance and that was certainly the case. The standout performers on the last day were Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel who finished with four wickets each and Quinton de Kock who finished with five catches.

Steyn and Morkel finished the match with 16 wickets between them and made it clear that on surfaces which encourage reverse swing or produce uneven bounce they are as much a handful as spinners. It was a tactic the West Indies used throughout their reign of the 1980s.

Steyn was named Man of the Match for his return of nine for 99 which is the best for South Africa in Sri Lanka, beating the the nine 106 by Brett Schultz at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo in 1993. Morkel finished with seven for 78 and a feature for both bowlers was not only their strike rates but the economy rates in the 40 overs bowled by Steyn and the 33 by Morkel.

As for de Kock he can look back on a wonderful first Test as wicketkeeper-batsman. His nine dismissals in the match (eight catches and a stumping) constitute a South African record against Sri Lanka beating the eight of Mark Boucher (twice) and Dave Richardson. He also contributed 87 runs, including his maiden Test half-century, off only 130 balls.

Winning the toss was crucial for South Africa but they still had to do the job and the manner in which they won at least two out of three sessions on all five days was highly encouraging, as was Amla's decision to make sure that he had enough overs to finish the job when he made his declaration rather than worrying about how many runs Sri Lanka needed for victory.

It was a vote of supreme confidence in his attack and no doubt contributed to the decisive manner in which they finished the match. The Proteas had 50 overs and a session and a half in hand when the match finished.

Steyn now has 371 Test wickets which has taken him past Pakistan legend Imran Khan, into 16th place on the all-time list. His trike rate of 41.7 is substantially better than anybody else who has taken more than 200 wickets.

As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, in spite of losing the toss, they have huge batting concerns around the dependency on Kumar Sangakkara (76 off 145 balls, nine fours and a six) with Mathews again being stranded without a reliable batting partner.