COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: South Africa frustrated Sri Lanka's spin attack with a defensive batting strategy to earn a draw in the second test on Monday and win the two-match series 1-0, launching them back to No. 1 in the world test rankings.
South Africa finished the day on 159-8 as Sri Lanka spinner Rangana Herath bagged five wickets — the 18th time he has taken five or more in an innings. But Herath couldn't prevent the draw after Sri Lanka set a 369-run target for the visitors on the final day of the test.
The series win gives the South Africans 124 ranking points, one above Australia, according to the International Cricket Council.
The South Africans were defensive from the start, scoring just 159 runs in 111 overs in nearly six hours of batting at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
Sri Lanka hit back strongly in the last session by claiming three wickets, but could not quite get there.
Herath finished with 5-40, while off-spinner Dilruwan Perera was 3-60.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said that the team was desperate to make up for the loss in the first Galle test but, despite the draw, he was happy with the team's effort.
"It was going to be hard work to get the South Africa batters (out) but they put their hearts out to try and win the game for us but unfortunately we could not win," Mathews said.
South Africa captain Hashim Amla praised his batsmen for securing a draw.
"To win a series here you are going to encounter certain times when you have to reach your breaking point. We almost reached that and the guys hung in."
Quinton de Kock made 37 off 92 deliveries, Amla 25 off 159 balls, and JP Duminy just one run from 41 balls. More than half of the 111 overs bowled in the innings were maidens.
Sri Lanka made 421 in its first innings and declared its second innings on 229-8. South Africa scored 282 in its first innings.
South Africa won the first test by 153 runs in Galle.