The 3rd wicket by Rangana Herath in 4 balls to seal a true victory against the odds was greeted by the whole Team huddled tightly in exultation. It ended 2011 with a compelling image that so embodied the unpredictability of results in Test cricket during the year, and ensured a mouth watering encounter here in the 3rd Test.
The barrage of criticism South Africa received for what was viewed as an inexplicable loss will mean they come out breathing fire and brimstone to fully test the credentials of the reinvigorated Sri Lanka.
Lets look at who stands the best chance of prevailing in this Test
In the wake of the deplorable batting effort in Durban the axe fell on the under performing Ashwell Prince with Alviro Petersen coming into the Team and Jacques Rudolph reverting to 6 in the line up. Poor Marchant De Lange after getting match figures of 126/8 in his debut Test makes way for the returning Vernon Philander leaving the Team like this
Smith, Petersen, Amla, Kallis, DeVilliers, Rudolph, Boucher, Steyn, Philander, Morkel, Tahir.
The Key for South Africa to Win
In watching South Africa in their two series since a long lay off from Test cricket you know that their bowling will be exceptional, but then their batting has been the anchor around the Teams neck.
Gifting both Australia and Sri Lanka a way back into their respective series with abject batting displays. The manner in which they went down so meekly to a Sri Lankan attack that has represented a nice boost to the Worlds batsmen since the retirements of Chaminda Vaas and Murali was very hard to stomach.
In this game if the batting is anywhere near its potential in the performance they put in it will go along way to ensure a South African win.
Crucial to this will be Jacques Kallis, who in his 4 Tests in these two series has only averaged 14.83 with a pair in the recent loss.
His struggles coinciding with the Teams loses condemns the rest of the batting line up who has so struggled to perform without the pressure taken off them by Kallis's usual excellence.
They all need to lift commandeered from the top of the order by the Captain Graeme Smith and then by the precocious talents of DeVilliers and Hashim Amla.
The decisive contributions of these veterans are crucial to the Teams prospects for the rest of the batting is made up of the names of Rudolph and Petersen who are suspect in the demands of Test Cricket. Then the vastly diminished Mark Boucher, who must be one further bad performance with the bat away from being sent into retirement.
Pure and simple if the Teams bats the brutally skilled bowling will ensure the victory.
On the eve of this Test the fitness concerns of two excellent performers from the 2nd Test victory in Dilhara Fernando and Dinesh Chandimal threaten to ruin the Teams chances in this game. If they are deemed unfit it means Dammika Prasad and Kaushal Silva will be their replacements which would weaken the Team greatly. Especially behind the stumps where Chandimals form with the bat was a key factor in the Sri Lankan victory.
Let us hope they both wake up on the right side of the bed and play in this game to leave the Team like this
Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal(wk), Thisara Perera, Rangana Herath, Dilhara Fernando, Chanaka Welegedara
The Key For Sri Lanka to Win
Crucially, before a ball is bowled the fitness of Dinesh Chandimal, who answered the Teams greatest needs with providing a decisive contributor of scoring runs under pressure needs to be fit to remain behind the stumps.
This so needed for the depth he adds to the batting and the effect it has on blunting the excellent South African attack enough to post a decent total in the hope of victimising the hosts under performing batting.
The batting is key to the Teams success in a game that promises to have them facing a brutal assault of pace.
The veteran duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera who were excellent in the Durban triumph need to carry that over into this match. As well as being joined by Mahela Jayawardene who has struggled in this series with just 90 runs from his 4 innings. This on top of a average of on 24.61 in his 21 innings of 2011.
Making you wander if this wonderful player is starting to diminish with age or if it is just a run of bad form for him.
Let us hope for the teams prospects here he answers that with a typical aesthetically pleasing big century.
Keeping him company in his struggles is the Captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has scored 63 in his 4 innings on this tour. Adding to the frustration of his performances is the dreadfully soft manners in which he has thrown away his wicket. Making you think that he should not only be replaced as Captain, but even dropped from the Team.
He needs to lift, and if he can it transforms the batting in so many ways by releasing the pressure off the middle order with his attacking play
If the batting can hold up and post a decent total then it supports a bowling unit that has been very adequate in the series.
Rangana Herath with his wily left arm destroyed the South African batting in Durban with his guile and spin. In this match if he gets to bowl against them in the 4th innings with South Africa's batting under pressure the likelihood is that he will make a mess of them again. His able ally in the remarkable victory was the left arm paceman Chanaka Welegedara who set it up with a very fine first innings effort where he got figures of 52/5.
They were ably supported by the pace and intimidation of Dilhara Fernando and the nagging line of length of Thisara Perera.
Which made up an attack that was more than a match for the South African batting, and with a similar display can retain that threat in this match.
Duly the batting performing to the level they did in Durban will dictate the Teams chances in this match.
The injury concerns over key men in the Sri Lankan victory coupled with the criticism stinging South Africa into action means it will be a tough task for the tourists in this Test.
Also there is every likelihood that we will see the awakening of the sleeping giant Jacques Kallis in this match to fuel the South Africans batting returning to being above average in support of the exceptional bowling attack.
Meaning South Africa will win.