South Africa overwhelmed a brittle Sri Lanka by an innings and 81 runs at Centurion with victory sealed before tea on the third day when Vernon Philander claimed his tenth wicket of the match. The home side's bowlers needed just 39.1 overs to dismantle the opposition batting line-up for a second time to reinforce the pre-series predictions that this could be a very one-sided contest.
Sri Lanka's cricket has taken a worrying nosedive since they finished runners up at the World Cup. Even then there were rumblings of discontent and now their on-field performances are suffering. This limp second innings followed previous collapses this year against England at Cardiff (82), Australia at Galle (105) and further problems in UAE against Pakistan. There is no shame in being beaten by South Africa at Centurion - this was their 13th victory in 17 Tests at the venue - but Sri Lanka barely put up a fight. Across two innings the batting lasted 86.5 overs; less than a day's play. (Also read: Sri Lanka ask Kulasekara, Prasad to fly in)
Philander continued to pile up the records with match figures of 10 for 102 to make it four five-wicket hauls in six Test innings. Dale Steyn could easily have had a bagful himself with probing late swing at pace and he regularly beat the outside edge. Morne Morkel continued to be a concern with another erratic display, but produced a rising delivery to remove Thilan Samaraweera which will have been a confidence booster. South Africa were also gifted Mahela Jayawardene's wicket when he contrived to run himself out trying for a run that would have taken him to 10,000 in Test cricket. The confusion summed up Sri Lanka's state of mind.
Facing a deficit of 231 on a surface offering help to the quicks was a daunting prospect and Sri Lanka soon started to crumble. Tillakaratne Dilshan departed first against some skilful seam and swing bowling from Philander who produced a delivery that nipped back then straightened to find the edge low to Mark Boucher. At least this time he wasn't caught at mid-on.
Tharanga Paranavitana had a tortured stay. Steyn thought he'd pinned him lbw first ball which would have completed a split-innings hat-trick, but having persuaded Graeme Smith to use a review the replays showed the ball sliding past leg stump. The opening over was a lengthy affair as Paranavitana also needed considerable treatment for a knee injury, then against Philander earned the benefit of the DRS having been given lbw to a ball that pitched outside leg.
Next over, though, Paranavitana's painful stay was ended following a working over by Steyn when he offered a limp edge to leave Sri Lanka 11 for 2. Steyn and Philander were constantly threatening with subtle movement and they would have been a handful against more confident line-ups than Sri Lanka's. The chances of the visitors offering any prolonged resistance receded further when Kumar Sangakkara completed a poor match by giving Boucher his third catch of the innings as he was defeated by skilful seam bowling.
It wasn't as though South Africa needed a helping hand, but they were gifted Jayawardene's wicket although credit must go to Jacques Kallis for swift work from his follow through and a pinpoint throw at the non-striker's end. It was a wonderfully sharp piece of fielding which so highlighted the gulf between the two teams.
The procession continued after lunch when Angelo Mathews, whose presence in the series is in doubt after he picked up a groin strain, became Boucher's fifth catch and Philander's third wicket. It was a productive day for Boucher who began by reaching a fifty that he'll hope will quieten speculation over his future. There was no arguing with the quality of his glovework and six catches in the innings equalled the best haul of his career.
Morkel then made his first incision of a difficult match at which point Sri Lanka were threatening to fold for double figures. Thisara Perera resisted for a while until slashing Steyn to slip while Herath launched two sixes into the stands but the end arrived swiftly when Philander claimed the final two wickets. This was the sort of ruthless performance Smith called for before the game and it's difficult to see how South Africa will be pushed in the remaining Tests.