South Africa require 352 runs to win on a crumbling track

Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera bowled unchanged from one end to claim figures of 6/32

South Africa were skittled for their lowest total since readmission as they collapsed to 73 all out en route to a 278-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test.

Dilruwan Perera (4-46) led Sri Lanka's three-pronged spin attack with aplomb, while stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal (3-21) also turned in a strong performancde.

Interesting, Dimuth Karunaratne alone scored more than South Africa's eleven batsmen. "I think over the last two or three years away-records have definitely gone down, and games are finishing a lot sooner than they used to".

South Africa were always going to struggle with a target of 352, but the rate at which they lost their wickets will be cause for serious concern ahead of the second Test in Colombo on Friday. Sri Lanka has more quality spinners. "If the wicket is turning, I tend to change those angles", said Perera.

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While the scorecard reveals South Africa were outspun - losing 17 of their 20 wickets to Sri Lanka's tweakers - it does not say how or why the wickets fell. As is often the case in Galle, the spinners have ruled, and the ball is pouncing off the dusty surface. "If a couple of us have a good partnership and one of us plays like Karunaratne played, that would get us close to that score". "When we face offspin in the nets, it's a coach trying to bowl offspin at you". The 30-year-old carried his bat in the first innings to post an unbeaten 158 and then hit 60 in Sri Lanka's second innings after the hosts resumed Saturday on 111-4. When Quinton de Kock completely missed the ball to be bowled, South Africa were in deep trouble at 36/6.

On a pitch that offered considerable turn and bounce for the slow bowlers, Sri Lanka's first innings lead of 161 proved decisive as South Africa simply crumbled in the fourth innings on a deteriorating track. That's Hashim Amla's advice to himself and his team-mates after an abysmal second day, in which they found themselves 51 for 6 at one stage, before eventually crashing to 126 all out.

With his domineering presence in the middle-order missing, the Lankan spinners easily scythed through the Proteas line-up in the first innings as the visitors appeared to be in two-minds and looked to defend their way out of trouble.

Perhaps the next time such an excursion is made, all the Test batsmen should travel and all of them should play some competitive cricket, though that would mean CSA have to find an opposition and organise the trip when it does not clash with IPL (or any other league some of their top players may be otherwise occupied with).

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