Thatscricket - News - South Africa upbeat after win over Sri Lanka

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: South Africa ended a successful home summer on a high with a 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka to leave a warm glow the cricket authorities could scarcely have imagined last year following the resignation of former captain Hansie Cronje in a match-fixing scandal.When South Africa began their away Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle halfway through last year, it was the first Test since the captaincy had been thrust onto the shoulders of Shaun Pollock and the way the team played in an innings defeat reflected the disarray the game was in at home.This month South Africa certainly had the benefit of quick, bouncy pitches that suited their formidable pace attack in Cape Town and Centurion, where Sri Lanka's two innings defeats in the Tests were inflicted.But South Africa's performance in those two matches, which saw them grab a comprehensive series win, highlighted the change in the fortunes of the home side in the last six months.''There has been (quite a turnaround) and I'm much happier to beon this side of the fence,'' Pollock said.''We had a very tough tour of Sri Lanka at the beginning of the season. Things really didn't go for us and there was a lot of frustration that built up, so it was nice to come back to South Africa and really dominate.'' The Sri Lankans seem to have gone in the opposite direction, although the circumstances of the tour, particularly the scheduling and lack of first class practice matches before the Tests, were not the easiest to cope with.The Islanders defeat by an innings and seven runs in the third Test at Centurion on Monday, which ended their South African tour two days early in playing terms, aptly summed up the tourists' seven-week trip.Aside from a thrilling four-run victory in the final One-day International at the Wanderers last week, when they were already 0-5 down in the series, they failed to feature in the Test or One-day series against South Africa. One of the reasons the six-match One-day series was split, with two matches before the first Test and the last four after the second, was to enable the Islanders to get to New Zealand for a five-match One-day series starting on January 31.Captain Sanath Jayasuriya said he had arrived in early December with the feeling they would battle with the changes between One-day and first class cricket.''It was always going to be hard for us. We knew that, but that's how the game goes,'' he said.He refused to use that as an excuse for the team's poor performances, however. ''Experienced players like myself, Marvan (Atapattu) and Romesh (Kaluwitharana) were very disappointing (with the bat),'' he admitted.But he praised youngsters like Kumar Sangakkara, who made 74 in the first Test in Durban and 98 in an unfamiliar opener's role in the second innings at Centurion, and Mahela Jayawardene, who also made 98 in the first Test.Ace off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 12 wickets in the first two Tests to reach 300 test wickets in Durban before missing the third Test with a groin injury, was the only other player he regarded as having had ''a good tour''.Sangakkara's elevation to the top of the order at Centurion was a case of ''something different for the second innings'' said Jayasuriya.He added that ''sometimes he might have to open in situations like this, if somebody is not doing well''.In this case, the skipper himself played poorly and his team will hope he can turn his game around for the forthcoming home Test series against England after the brief New Zealand trip.While Sri Lanka at least have the consolation of knowing their next series will be in helpful home conditions, the South Africans now face one of their most arduous away tours since international readmission, to the West Indies.Pollock insisted they would not underestimate the task, despite West Indies' poor current form in Australia.''We played the West Indies here (1998-9) and won 5-0 and straight after that they went home and drew the series 2-2 with Australia, who are the world champs, so there's no underestimating them.''They're a different kettle of fish on their own grounds,'' he said, adding that the tour was the biggest challenge of the season.(c) Reuters Limited. Click here for Restrictions

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