Sri Lanka vs South Africa: Islanders last beat Proteas in a Test series 12 years ago

Here we take a look at all the Test series that these two teams have played so far since the early 1990s.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka - Day Five
Sri Lankan team. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

South Africa, ranked second in ICC Test positions, will take on Sri Lanka in a two-match Test series starting at the Galle International Stadium, Galle, Sri Lanka, from July 12. Faf du Plessis’s men have won eight of their last nine Test series, including a 2-1 victory over No.1 Test side India, earlier this year. Two of these series wins came overseas, against Australia and New Zealand.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are ranked sixth at the moment in ICC’s list and have had a roller-coaster ride in the longest format. Of the last 10 Test series the islanders have played, they have won only five and lost three while two series were drawn.

Of the three victories that Sri Lanka bagged, the most memorable was one against Australia who they hammered 3-0 at home in 2016. The other big team they beat have been Pakistan (2-0 in the UAE). These apart, the Lankans have beaten low-placed teams like Zimbabwe (twice) and Bangladesh but were beaten by South Africa and India (twice) in away series.

When it comes to South Africa-Sri Lanka rivalry in Tests, the Asians haven’t beaten their African rivals in a Test series since 2006. Overall, the two teams have played in 10 Test series so far since 1993 after the Proteas made their comeback in international cricket and it is South Africa who have prevailed over their opponents in seven series. Sri Lanka have won two home series in the mid-2000s while one series was drawn.

Five of these 10 series have been played on the Sri Lankan and South African soil each and while Sri Lanka have lost all five away series against the Proteas, the latter have won two series in Sri Lanka, lost two while one was drawn.

South Africa have won the last three Test series played against Sri Lanka since 2011-12, two at home and one away and will look to make it four on the trot this time.

They have played three-Test series five times and two-Test series as many times. The upcoming series is also a two-match series with the second game set to played at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo between July 20 and 24.

Here we take a look at all the Test series that these two teams have played so far since the early 1990s:

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 1-0 (3) in Sri Lanka, 1993: The first-ever Test series between South Africa and Sri Lanka took place in Sri Lanka and the South Africans won it 1-0, thanks to a mammoth victory by innings and 208 runs in the second Test played at the SSC in which man of the series Brett Schultz took nine wickets.

The first and the third Tests played in Moratuwa and P Sara Oval, Colombo, respectively, ended in draws, giving the visitors a 1-0 victory. South Africa were led in this series by Kepler Wessels while Sri Lanka had Arjuna Ranatunga at their helm. It was the Proteas’ first away series win on return in international cricket.

This series three centuries from the South African side: from Jonty Rhodes, Hansie Cronje and Daryll Cullinan but none from the Sri Lankan side.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 2-0 (2) in South Africa, 1998: The islanders put up a decent show but could not eventually put it across the formidable South African bowling in their second Test series, played on South African soil in 1998. The first match in Cape Town saw the hosts winning by 70 runs, thanks to Shaun Pollock’s all-round performance although the Lankans, chasing 377 to win, did not give up without a fight.

The second game in Centurion had the Lankans in front till the middle of the game as they took a 103-run lead in the first innings over the Proteas after electing to bat first. But they could not take the advantage as the White Lightning – Allan Donald – ran through them in the second essay, bowling them out for 122 and the Proteas won the match by 6 wickets to win the series 2-0. Daryll Cullinan was chosen as the man of the series. Hansie Cronje was the captain of the South African side while Ranatunga led the opponents.

South Africa drew Sri Lanka 1-1 (3) in Sri Lanka, 2000: Sri Lanka finally tasted their first Test victory over South African in the home series in 2000 when they beat a new-looking Proteas led by Shaun Pollock at the Galle stadium by an innings and 15 runs, thanks to splendid centuries from skipper Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene and a 13-wicket haul from Muttiah Muralidharan.

The Proteas then pulled off a sensational 7-run win while defending a low total of 176 in the second Test in Kandy.

The Sri Lankans were ahead in the game throughout till their late innings collapse in which they lost 6 wickets for 39 runs. In the final Test, the hosts preferred safety over victory as they used up 67 overs losing just 4 wickets but yet did not go after the target of 263. Muralidharan took 8 wickets in this game but it was Lance Klusener who was picked as the man of the series.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 2-0 (3) in South Africa, 2000-01: This series was a disaster for the Lankans as their batsmen were toppled by the South African bowlers in almost every innings. The visitors managed to draw the first game in Durban after Russel Arnold and Tillakaratne Dilshan came up with gritty batting but that resistance vanished in the next two Tests that the Lankans lost by an innings margin.

They lost the second game badly in Cape Town after getting shot out for 95 in their first innings and lost it by an innings and 229 runs.

In the third Test in Centurion, too, the visitors failed in their batting and lost it by an innings and 7 runs after facing a follow-on. South African skipper Shaun Pollock was adjudged the man of the series for his all-round performance with the bat and the ball. The Lankans were led by Jayasuriya in this series.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 2-0 (2) in South Africa, 2002: The Lankans lost their third successive Test series in South Africa in 2002-03, conceding the two-game series this time 0-2. In the first Test in Johannesburg led by Jayasuriya, the Sri Lankans were hit by their old ailment again as they failed to cross 200 in either of their innings and lost the match by an innings and 64 runs.

The second Test in Centurion saw the Lankans having the hosts in the coffin but failed to find the nails and the Proteas eventually won the game by 3 wickets, chasing 121 for a win. Veteran Hashan Tillakaratne hit an unbeaten 100 in this Test but it was again the South African captain Shaun Pollock who had the last laugh.

Marvan Atapattu captained the Sri Lankan side in the second Test after Jayasuriya missed the game because of injury sustained in practice sessions. Jacques Kallis was picked as the man of the series.

Sri Lanka beat South Africa 1-0 (2) in Sri Lanka, 2004: After 11 years and five series, the islanders eventually won their first Test series versus South Africa and it was the superior batting display from Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, both of whom hit double centuries in the series, which made it possible for Sri Lanka to accomplish the mission. But one would also not forget the contribution from Chaminda Vaas who took a six-for to floor the visitors at the SSC Ground in the second Test to give Sri Lanka a 313-run win. The first Test in Galle was drawn after both sides came up with strong batting displays. The Lankans were led by Marvan Atapattu while Graeme Smith was in charge of South Africa in this series.

Sri Lanka beat South Africa 2-0 (2) in Sri Lanka in 2006: This has been Sri Lanka’s best show in Tests versus the South Africans till date and also the last time they defeated their African opponents in this format.

The first Test at the SSC Ground saw the hosts putting up a mammoth 756 for 5 declared after skipper Mahela Jayawardena slammed 374 – the fourth highest individual score in Tests – while Kumara Sangakkara hit 287.

The visitors, led by Ashwell Prince, had no answer to this sort of batting and even they scored 434 in their second innings, yet they lost the game by an innings and 153 runs. Muttiah Muralidharan took 10 wickets in this match but remained eclipsed by Jayawardene.

The second match at P Sara Oval saw a more exciting game which the hosts won by just one wicket to win their first Test series versus the Proteas. South Africa won the toss and scored 361 and then bowled out Sri Lanka for 321 despite a late-order flourish from the Islanders.

The visitors then scored 311 and set a target of 352 for the Lankans. Jayawardena slammed a ton again but it was only the last pair which saw them crossing the finishing line. Muralidharan took 12 wickets in this game and was chosen the man of the series.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 2-1 (3) in South Africa, 2011-12: Tillakaratne Dilshan’s Sri Lanka faced yet another series defeat against South Africa on the latter’s soil in the 2011-12 series though the Asians managed to win one Test this time – their first ever in South Africa.

The first Test in Centurion saw the Lankans capitulating and losing by an innings and 81 runs as Vernon Philander finished with a 10-wicket haul. Sri Lanka could not score 200 in either of the two innings in this Test.

But the visitors came back strongly in the second game in Durban, thanks to a combined effort, to thrash the hosts by 208 runs after setting them a target of 450. Rangana Herath picked 12 wickets in the game while Thilan Samaraweera and Kumara Sangakkara hit a ton each.

Graeme Smith’s men, however, thumped their opponents in the third and the final Test in Cape Town by 10 wickets. They piled up on their runs (580 for 4 declared) in their first innings as three batsmen hit tons, with one of them – Jacques Kallis – going on to hit a double.

The hosts then bowled out Sri Lanka for 239 and enforced a follow-on. The visitors did better in their second innings, thanks to Samaraweera’s ton again, but it was too uphill a task and the South Africans needed just a minute to score 2 runs to win the series 2-1. AB de Villiers was picked as the man of the series.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 1-0 (2) in Sri Lanka, 2014: A hundred at No. 8 by JP Duminy saw South Africa scoring a formidable first innings score of 455 in the first Test in Galle and the Sri Lankans, led by Angelo Mathews found the challenging too stiff to overcome.

Sri Lanka scored 292 in their first innings and did worse in their second innings by managing 216 while chasing 370. Hashim Amla’s Proteas took a 1-0 lead in the series and it was enough to hand them their second series win in Sri Lanka after 1993. The Dale Steyn-Morne Morkel duo wrecked the hosts’ ship in this game.

Sri Lanka dominated the next game played at the SSC Ground with old warhorse Jayawardena hitting yet another big ton against the Proteas but the hosts could not overcome the resistance of the South African tail which went on wagging till the curtains were drawn. Sri Lanka had given SA almost an identical target of 369 after taking a lead of 139 runs in the first innings but could take only 8 wickets within the stipulated time. Sri Lankan offie Dilruwan Perera was chosen as the player of the series for taking 16 wickets.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka 3-0 (3) in South Africa 2016-17: The Asians lost their fifth Test series in South Africa and this was the worst of all as they were routed 0-3. In the first Test in Port Elizabeth, Sri Lanka conceded far too many runs in the second innings to allow the game drift away and lost it by a huge margin of 206 while chasing 488. Their batsmen found the likes of Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada too hot to handle.

The hammering the Lankans got in the second Test in Cape Town was even worse. After conceding a big lead in the first innings, they were given an improbable target of 507 but the Rabadas (10 wickets) and Philanders (7 wickets) shot the visitors out for 224, winning it for South Africa by 282 runs.

The hapless Lankans just went through their motions in the concluding Test in Johannesburg which they lost by an innings and 118 runs. They were skittled out for 131 after Faf du Plessis’s South Africa scored 426 and then after being forced to follow on, they were bowled out for 177. Dean Elgar was chosen as the man of the series.

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