Sri Lanka went into the day with hope on their side. It all died very soon. After a brief period of dominance to start the day, things when downhill for the visitors. South Africa won the second Test at around 40 minutes after lunch and with ten wickets. They have hit back at the team that whitewashed them at home in 2019.
Some casual shots from the Sri Lanka batsmen and a thorough job of cleaning up the tail accelerated the culmination of the Test.
It did not seem this easy with the way the overnight pair began. By the end of the fourth over since morning, Dimuth Karunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella added 24 runs and had the South Africa camp nervous. The hosts started the day with four slips. They soon switched to two slips and a gully. The scoring rate even led the South Africa bowling coach to run the sidelines to provide a message for his pacers.
Dickwella continued to survive the plays and misses while not missing out on boundary opportunities. He was particularly adept at guiding any back of a length ball past the slip cordon or driving the fuller ones through covers. Karunaratne resumed the sobriety, looking in complete control. Through two consecutive boundaries, one driven past overs, the other cut past point he reached his 10th Test ton, his third outside the subcontinent.
All this was to change very soon. Karunaratne had scored towards the square leg and midwicket region with ease throughout the last session on the second day. Attempting his first such short today, he got late due to Anrich Nortje's pace and could only get a top-edge to square leg.
In the next over, it was Dickwella's turn to get the leading edge. Looking to attack a full ball over mid-on, he connected while being off-balance with his backfoot still in the air. Temba Bavuma completed an easy catch at mid-off to hand Lungi Ngidi his fourth wicket of the innings.
With right-handers at the crease, keeping the ball at the right channels became easier for the pacers. Dasun Shanaka resisted well for some time but another leading-edge handed the hosts the seventh Sri Lankan wicket. This time the fielding position where the ball went was mid-on and the bowler was Wiaan Mulder.
While Nortje deployed a short ball strategy in a bid for a ten-for in the Test, it was the fuller length from Lutho Sipamla that continued the fall of wickets. Bowling one that went away and the next that came in, Sipamla castled Wanindu Hasaranga who could not replicate his performance from the second innings in the last Test.
Lifted after finally getting a wicket, Sipamla ended the innings in his next over. This time he got a wicket each on both the ball that went away and the one that came in.
With just 67 runs to win, the batsmen had nothing to gain and everything to lose. This was truer for Aiden Markram with his Test average receding since Australia toured South Africa in 2018. Had it not be an umpire review of a catch at slip – that revealed the ball touching the ground – Markram would have been the only South Africa player sombre after the series win.
That aside, Markram and Dean Elgar – who was also the player of the match and the series – were clinical and through some carefree shots, chased the target down in 13.2 overs. And thus with two emphatic victories, South Africa dull down the scars of 2019.