TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
UNLIKE justice, victory delayed is not victory denied, and South Africa will surely wrap up their win over Sri Lanka at Newlands on Thursday.
If, by some miracle, the Lankans force the second test into a fifth day, South Africa should still win.
Anything else would be an injustice to a home side who have outplayed their opponents.
So there was a feeling of water being treaded when stumps were drawn on Wednesday, the third day, with the visitors on 130/4, still 377 runs away from their target of 507.
South Africa have been winners in waiting since Tuesday, when they reached the close 317 runs ahead – more than enough, probably.
They threw another 189 runs onto the pile before the declaration came 45 minutes before tea in an innings that has left questions hanging in the air like the smoke from the bush fires that have ravished the region during these hot, dry days.
Two of the batsmen who could use time in the middle under minimal pressure, Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma, were dismissed for ducks. That means they have gone 10 and six test innings without reaching 50.
Another, JP Duminy, scored 30. His last seven innings, then, have yielded only one half-century.
But there will be satisfaction that the lower middle order pulled their weight, what with the last three partnerships adding 87 runs to the total.
That done the bowlers were tossed the ball and told to get on with it in 32 degree Celsius heat and on a pitch that was at its best for batting.
Happily, then, South Africa enjoy the services of some of the best in the game and they duly did as instructed to reduce the Lankans to 69/4 before Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal stopped the slide.
Vernon Philander struck the first blow 13 balls before tea by bowling Dimuth Karunaratne with a delivery that pitched on middle, took the inside edge, and nailed leg stump.
Philander then had the hard-driving Kusal Mendis caught at third slip before Kaushal Silva fended a brutish bouncer from Kagiso Rabada to short leg.
In his next over Rabada trapped Dhananjaya de Silva in front with a delivery that would have missed leg stump.
De Silva seemed to leave without challenging the decision on the advice of his captain, Mathews, who watched it all from the other end of the pitch.
Or maybe he just wanted out of there.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Lankans.
They knew they had little hope of occupying the crease for the rest of the match and even less chance of winning t.
And they were facing one of the better attacks in the game.
That’s as tough an ask as cricket can pose, but Mathews and Chandimal tried their damnedest to answer it.
By stumps their unbroken stand was worth 61, the visitors’ biggest partnership of the match and their only 50 stand.
Mathews was 29 not out with Chandimal on 28. Together they batted for 63 minutes and faced 88 balls.
That’s a fine effort, but it will have to be exponentially better if they are to deny South Africa the justice of victory.