Sri Lanka in SA
SL have sweeter memories
Johannesburg - While the Sri Lankans will still be licking their wounds from their drubbing by the Proteas last weekend in Centurion, some of their team members will have sweeter memories of their drawn Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead in December 2000.
In the only Test the Sri Lankans have played in Durban, the fourth day was washed out completely in a game which could have gone either way.
Gary Kirsten made 180 in the first innings at Kingsmead that year, his 11th Test century which, at that time, equalled Daryll Cullinan's record for South Africa.
Kirsten went on to score 24 centuries for his country, with only Jacques Kallis, currently on 40, exceeding his record.
Graeme Smith could also overtake Kirsten as he has 23 hundreds to his name.
Kirsten's innings also set the bar for a batsman, scoring a century against seven different Test playing nations.
He went on to complete the set, making 220 against Zimbabwe in Harare in September 2001 and 160 in Potchefstroom against the newest Test playing nation, Bangladesh, in October 2002.
The left-handed batsman was eventually dismissed at Kingsmead by a young Dilhara Fernando, who, at 21 years of age, took 5-98 in South Africa’s innings of 420 all out.
Full of promise in those days, Fernando’s career has been plagued by injuries, but he was unlucky not to be rewarded with more wickets in last week’s Test as a couple of chances went begging.
After breaking down during Sri Lanka's tour of England in June 2011, Fernando returned to the squad for their recent Pakistan tour, hosted in the United Arab Emirates.
The visitors will be hoping Fernando can emulate his successful five-wicket haul in 2000 at Kingsmead next week.
"He [Fernando] is at his peak," Kaushal Silva, Sri Lanka's wicket-keeper said.
"He has been doing well for the past couple of months and in Abu Dhabi [against Pakistan], he bowled really quickly.
“If he bowls well and takes vital wickets, he will be the key man for us."
Kirsten, meanwhile, also top-scored in the second innings of the 2000 encounter, with a meagre 34 runs before Muttiah Muralitharan tore the innings apart, taking 6-39 before the hosts declared at 140/7 after losing a day's play to rain.
Muralitharan finished with 11 wickets in the match and the Sri Lankans have struggled to fill the gap after his retirement in July last year – they have not won a single Test since then.
Back in the day, the 2000 Test also featured another 21-year-old fast bowler who was set for a great future.
Mfuneko Ngam playing in only his second Test took three wickets against Sri Lanka in the Durban Test.
His performance improved in the next game at Newlands in January 2001, taking 3-26 in the first innings and 6-62 in the match.
The Eastern Province Express, as he was known, had a smooth run-up and enough pace to make the best batsmen fidgety.
However, a succession of stress fractures in his legs prematurely ended his international career after just three Tests.
Securing the draw at Kingsmead, the visitors went on to lose the series 2-0, suffering crushing defeats in both Cape Town and Centurion.
Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher were also part of that series as were rookies Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and current skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Jayawardene top-scored for the visitors at Kingsmead, with 98 while Sangakkara contributed 74 runs in the 216 all out reply to South Africa's 420.
Let us hope the veteran Sri Lankan batting trio are up to the task this time around to stretch the game to a five-day encounter.