The 2-0 series win – Sri Lanka had won the first Test in Durban by one wicket in a thriller – is also the first series victory by any Asian side in South Africa. Chasing a target of 197, and after starting the third day at 60/2, Sri Lanka finished the match in just under a session, courtesy a 163-run unbeaten stand for the third wicket.
Sri Lanka needed 137 runs on the day – a tricky total – but they got off to a good start, with Mendis and Fernando taking on the South African fast bowlers with aplomb.
Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier were all taken for boundaries as Fernando and Mendis, growing in confidence with each stroke, brought up their 50-run partnership for the third wicket before the first drinks break.
Steyn was driven down the ground on multiple occasions by Mendis – he hit three boundaries off one Steyn over – while short and wide deliveries from Rabada and Olivier were cut and pulled on both sides of the wicket. Mendis brought up his half-century off just 52 balls, and Fernando got his off 69 deliveries, hitting seven fours and a six en route.
South Africa switched then to the spin of Keshav Maharaj, but it was to no avail. Mendis used his feet well and used the depth of the crease to punish deliveries outside his off stump. When Maharaj changed his line, they were turned away square of the wicket on the leg side.
Sri Lanka brought up their 100 in the 25th over, and Fernando and Mendis added a 100 runs between them off just 126 balls.
A chance did come South Africa’s way when the visitors needed just 31 runs for victory. A slash by Mendis off Olivier flew through the slip cordon, brushing Hashim Amla’s outstretched hand at first slip before falling to the ground. But that was about it.
Mendis and Fernando brought up their 150-run stand, and soon after, Fernando levelled scores with a six off Maharaj. A single thereafter sealed the deal for Sri Lanka.