It is not the manner any team would like to regain their number one Test ranking. Staying second behind in the Test throughout, and managing to hold on to a draw just by the scruff of the neck. It was not champion stuff by any stretch of the imagination. But, considering South Africa's poor record in the island nation, and also the fact that the conditions were tailor-made for the Sri Lankans in every aspect, they would take the draw without much fuss. After all, it helped them get back to the top. As for Sri Lanka they would be disheartened since they dominated the Test, but failed to get over the finishing line.
South Africa's scorecard on the final day looked far from impressive. But, with a win out of the equation, it was all a matter of playing out time for them. Under the scenario, Sri Lankan spinners would have fancied their chances. In fact, Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera bowled fantastically well to exploit the conditions. At the end of the day however, they ran out of time as South Africa found enough players to hang around and rescue them from desperate situations. Lanka would have believed at numerous points in the game that the Test was theirs, but champion teams do the finishing job, which Lanka failed to do. Ironically, the hosts would have been the most disappointed of the teams in spite of always having the ascendancy.
There were no significant performances for South Africa in terms of runs on the final day, but when it comes to playing out time, they have many heroes to thank. Batting out 111 overs in the fourth innings was a significant achievement. Dean Elgar hung around for 68 minutes for his 13, Quinton de Kock spent 96 minutes for his 37, skipper Hashim Amla occupied the crease for 170 minutes while making a laborious 25. This was in addition to his first-innings hundred, during which he occupied the crease for nearly 500 minutes. Faf du Plessis was at the crease for 51 minutes for his 10. Further, JP Duminy hung around for more than an hour for his 3, and finally Vernon Philander was unbeaten on 27 after 105 minutes. Individually, it did not amount to much, but in combination it was a match-winning effort.
Sri Lanka did give it their everything they had on the final day. Both Herath and Perera were top class, but they just could not breakthrough when needed towards the end. Credit must be given to South Africa for the manner in which they held up against the spin duo especially under the circumstances, and the conditions on offer. South Africa were aided by rain to some extent, but the hosts would still be disappointed with the end result. After all, the efforts of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara as well as the spinners went in vain.
--By A Cricket Analyst