Sri Lanka stunned the world to become the first team from subcontinent to win a Test series in South Africa……
The only thing constant about time is that it changes. We all have heard this age-old adage a countless number of times through the course of our lives. The change advocated in this adage can be a disaster for some while it can be a road to deliverance for some others. Ask any ardent supporter of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team about the nature of the changes that they have stood witness to in their team; throughout the course of this gruelling high-voltage Test series, the answer will not constitute words but tears.
Tears of joy, feeling of liberation and contentment, the satisfaction of ending a gloomy rut and pride of penning the team’s name in immortal words in the history of the game. These are the myriad emotions that must be doing endless rounds through the hearts of Sri Lankan fans and players alike. They deserve it. They deserve every bit of that joy; for they have weathered (and trumped) a seemingly unending storm which threatened to take away everything that stands for cricket in the small island nation.
As soon as the second ball of the 46th over of the Sri Lankan innings, which was mightily tonked by Oshada Fernando, crossed the long-on boundary in its flight, the whole of Sri Lanka and countless eyes world-over, watching and praying for a Lankan win, finally blinked to contentment because they had seen to it that their team was just a nonchalant tickle away from becoming the first-ever Asian side to win a Test series in South Africa.
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The top-ranked Test team in the world couldn’t do it, Pakistan suffered a huge ignominy in just attempting to do it but here is a team which was brutally bruised by the injuries first inflicted by England at home (loss of 3-0), then New Zealand (loss of 1-0) and finally a depleted Australian side commanding a complete surrender to win the series by a 2-0 margin. The scars of those injuries were so glaring that this Sri Lankan team, suffering from injuries to three out of four first-choice seamers, wasn’t even considered as an underdog before the commencement of the series with some pundits even going to lengths of predicting a more brutal whitewash than what was inflicted by England or Australia.
They say that winning a boxing bout is not about the strength in the fighters but about the stamina to stand till last. Sri Lanka showed the stamina and they are standing victorious. They were considered a lamb pitted against the lion and that too in its own den but nobody, in their wildest dreams, could have imagined what just transpired over the course of the Test series which resulted in the perceived hapless bunch of lambs turning into fearsome pack of wolves who hunted together and were successful in becoming only the third team (Australia and England being the other two) to triumph over the South African lions in their own den.
Critics can say that this wasn’t a complete performance; with bowlers shouldering the maximum burden of the wins and there’s hardly a point they are wrong about. But South African batting collapsed too, and theirs is even more surprising considering they had what we call the ‘home advantage’ which, in today’s world, acts nothing short of the twelfth man for the team. The Sri Lankan batsmen weren’t up to the mark that is agreed but one must also consider the fact that their batsmen stood tall when their team called upon them in adverse conditions.
Be it Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya de Silva in the first nail-biter or Oshada Fernando and Kusal Mendis in the second one, Sri Lanka always had someone who took the responsibility to take his side across the line. This is where the South Africans faltered. Even South African skipper Faf du Plessis rued his team’s batting in the post-match interview. “We were pretty poor with the bat throughout the series and I thought both the teams underperformed with the bat. It is a massive dent; we were looking good until this Test series, but we went down as a team in these last two matches.” In fact, they were very good with the ball but simply couldn’t muster the supportive acts necessary to translate Quinton de Kock’s innings into match-winning efforts.
But take nothing away from the Sri Lankan bowlers who bowled their hearts out to bring their team back into a position from where they could dare to dream a win in both the games, when their backs were against the wall and opposition was threatening to kick them out of the game. Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha were very well supported by Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya and Dhananjaya de Silva to constitute a bowling effort which you don’t see very often. After all, feats like an Asian team’s bowling attack trumping the South African bowlers in their home comforts, don’t happen too often but when they do happen, one can do nothing but sit back and devour the miraculous feeling with a sense of gratitude for the team coming out as champions. This time it’s Sri Lanka.