Dale Steyn leads South Africa to series lead in Sri Lanka

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Proteas pace duo, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, demolished Sri Lanka to give South Africa an emphatic 153 run first Test win at Galle and an all-important 1-0 series lead.

Steyn, the ICC's number one ranked bowler for the last several years, tore through the Sri Lankan batting in both innings, registering figures of 9-99, the best return by a fast bowler at a ground that is synonymous with spin bowling. 

Morkel and Steyn

The: "Phalaborwa express," was ably assisted by his lanky partner Morne Morkel, who contributed with his own haul of 7-78, providing the perfect foil for Steyn.

Galle has become somewhat of a fortress in recent times, with the Proteas managing only three wins at the venue over the last 14 years, and the usual dustbowl of a strip that greeted the tourists would have provided a huge focus and expectation on their spin resources coming into the Test.


Steyn and Morkel would have been expected to get get amongst the wickets, however not to the dominant extent that they did, especially when you consider that former Sri Lankan great, Muttiah Muralidaran took 111 of his 800 Test wickets at the ground.

It was a sublime all-round performance by the Proteas, the first Test with the newly appointed Hashim Amla at the helm, following the retirement of Graeme Smith.

The South Africans have also been adjusting to the loss of Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Smith himself over the last two-years, and all the evidence suggests that their transition into a new era might not be as difficult as first thought.


The Proteas relinquished their number one ranking to Australian earlier in the year following a thrilling home-series loss to the: "Baggy Greens," however the first Test win has put the tourists back in contention to regain top spot, with a draw in the second and final Test all that is required.

South Africa took first strike setting a competitive first innings total of 459-9 declared, Dean Elgar cementing his place at the top of the order in place of the retired Smith, with a second Test hundred, while JP Duminy continued his resurgent form with one of his own.

Duminy all-rounder

Duminy has stepped up to the plate since the retirement of Jacques Kallis, establishing himself as the leading all-rounder within the side. His off-spin has improved dramatically over the last year, showcasing his ability to not only take wickets but to create pressure by tying up an end.

Steyn blitzed the Proteas to a first innings lead of 163 with a five wicket haul, the 23rd of his Test career. Sri Lanka simply had no answer to the pace and reverse swing of Steyn, falling behind the game to 292 all-out.


South Africa's second innings put new captain Hashim Amla's tactics firmly in the spotlight. The timing of the declaration went along way to suggest that Amla will not take as much of a conservative approach that his predecessor Smith, might have done over the years, declaring their second innings closed on 206-6, a very attainable victory target of 369.

The hosts began day five needing only 260 runs to win with nine wickets in hand, without doubt a getable score with players of the calibre of Jayawardene and Sangakkara at their disposal.

However Steyn and Morkel had other ideas as the pace duo rattled through the remaining nine wickets for just 109 runs, in a performance of controlled hostility and precision.

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Steyn's ability to practically negate the conditions is what makes the speedster without question the best bowler in Test cricket, and with statistics of 371 wickets in just 73 Tests at an average of 22.72, it is easy to see his importance within the Proteas squad.

"I've played in some pretty tough conditions before but this is right up there," he said after collecting the man-of-the-match award.

"It's not the fastest wicket in the world, that's for sure, but if you can get pace through the air with a bit of aggression and land the ball in the right areas then you always stand a chance of taking a wicket," the 31-year-old said.

"If you leave it then you can be bowled with a bit of reverse swing, or even with the wind."

For South Africa's newly appointed captain, the victory was particularly sweet it was his first Test in charge.

Amla is under no illusions as to the task that lies ahead following the retirement of Graeme Smith, who spent 10-years at the helm of South African cricket.

Hashim Amla

His declaration was an intriguing one, a masterstroke. Leaving the opposition believing they are still in the game is a tactic that paid off as it encouraged the Sri Lankan's to play their shots a little more pushing for the win, hence providing his team with more chances. 

Had he have batted Sri Lanka out of site, the chances are that the first Test would have ended up a draw.

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Sri Lanka cricket
Hashim Amla
AB de Villiers
South Africa cricket

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