Kusal Mendis, Oshada Fernando lead Sri Lanka to famous series win

South Africa


Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando react in the field © Getty Images

Sri Lanka 154 (Dickwella 42, Rabada 4-38) and 197 for 2 (Mendis 84*, Oshada 75*, Olivier 1-46) beat South Africa 222 (De Kock 86, Vishwa 3-62, Rajitha 3-67) and 128 (Du Plessis 50*, Lakmal 4-39, de Silva 3-36) by eight wickets

Remember, Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa in a state of utter turmoil – both on and off the field? After less than seven days of cricket, they surmounted tremendous odds and became only the third visiting side – after England and Australia – and the first Asian team to clinch a Test series in South Africa.

It was Kusal Mendis who spearheaded the famous win with a regal, unbeaten 84 off 110 balls in a chase of 197. He found an adventurous partner in Oshada Fernando, as they peeled off 163 off 213 balls – the first century stand of the series.

When the day began, it was still anybody’s game – Sri Lanka needed 137 runs and South Africa eight wickets – but the visitors eventually stormed to victory without losing any further wickets.

Mendis, in particular, rolled out one rollicking drive after another and collared South Africa’s seam attack. Once left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj was recalled, Oshada twinkled down the track and launched him towards the sightscreen.

Mendis was the first to raise his half-century off 52 balls with a straight drive off Dale Steyn in the 29th over. Three overs later, Oshada moved to his maiden fifty in his fourth Test innings with a full-blooded back-foot whip between midwicket and mid-on off Maharaj.

Rabada had cranked up to speeds in the higher 140kph range, but both Mendis and Oshada diffused his threat. And when anything was remotely wide of off, they went after it liked they owned it. Duanne Olivier hit the deck hard, like he has been doing through the summer, but Oshada took him on with daring hooks. What about Steyn? Mendis took him for a triptych of drives in his first over of the day, the pick of them being straight hit that nearly put Oshada in danger. Just like that the hundred stand came off 126 balls.

The closest South Africa came close to taking a wicket was when Mendis flashed an outside edge, but Hashim Amla could not latch onto to a overhead catch at first slip. Mendis was on 70 and Sri Lanka needed just 32 at that point. Mendis and Oshada knocked them off in fuss-free fashion to cap another monumental victory for Sri Lanka.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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