The faintest of hopes that Sri Lanka had going into the final day hinged on Angelo Mathews. The skipper had to bat long and bat deep with Dhananjaya de Silva and the lower order to keep his side in the hunt but all it took South Africa was 70 minutes on Friday (December 30) to get rid of the last five wickets and win the first Test by 206 runs in Port Elizabeth.
Kyle Abbott did the damage early on and got the crucial wicket of Mathews very early in the day as he trapped the Sri Lankan captain lbw for 59. The batsman shuffled across and tried to glance the ball down to fine leg but missed it completely. Even though he was hit quite high, the umpire raised his finger only for the batsman to challenge it with a bit of hesitation. Unfortunately for the visitors, replays confirmed that the ball was clipping the stumps, so the umpire’s call stayed and Mathews had to walk back on the 16th delivery of the morning.
Abbott then caused some concern in the Sri Lankan camp off the very next delivery as Rangana Herath got hit on his left hand. De Silva, who started the day with a boundary, hit another one through mid-off but couldn’t survive longer as Abbott caused another dent by getting rid of the No.6 batsman in similar fashion. He decided to use the review as well but to no avail as the ball was clipping the stumps yet again.
Four balls later, Vernon Philander sent Herath back with a diving catch that caused some discomfort on his left shoulder. He redeemed himself to complete the over and went on to bowl one more but Suranga Lakmal managed to hit him for three boundaries. Faf du Plessis then decided to rest both Abbott and Philander to introduce Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj. The move worked immediately with the duo picking the final two wickets to help their side take the lead in the series.
While Dushmantha Chameera gloved one behind off Rabada, with the extra bounce doing the trick, Nuwan Pradeep was bowled by a beauty from Maharaj. Stephen Cook was named the player of the match for scoring a half-century and a century in the game. Sri Lanka, at one stage, put up a decent fight in their pursuit of the target but wilted in the final session on day four. They now have only two days to redeem themselves before the second Test on January 2 at Newlands in Cape Town.