Sri Lanka’s wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella celebrates the dismissal of South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis. Image Credit: AFP

Galle: South African captain Faf du Plessis rued his side’s failure to seize the big moments after they succumbed to their lowest total since re-admission in Galle on Saturday.

Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath, the Sri Lanka spinners, picked up a combined 15 wickets in the match, as South Africa were bundled out for 126 in the first innings, and just 73 in the second. Sri Lanka won the Test by a mammoth 278 runs.

Du Plessis said the turning point came in the first innings, when they had Sri Lanka reeling at 115/5, but allowed them to post 287.

“We’ve only got ourselves to blame for that situation,” said du Plessis. “That (conceding lead) was a big turning point in the game. You bat first on a wicket that was never going to be a high-scoring pitch — I think we had them at 115/5, and we let them to get to 287. Obviously, it was a big total. Even though we bowled well in the second innings, that was always going to be a difficult total.”

Sri Lanka’s batting charge was led by Dimuth Karunaratne. He carried his bat in the first innings and scored a 222-ball 158* before following it up with an 80-ball 60 in the second.

It helped Sri Lanka set a target of 352 on a pitch increasingly aiding spin. “It was a fantastic batting effort from Karunaratne,” said du Plessis. “It looked like he batted on a different pitch from batters of both teams. He batted extremely well, and showed what is required to put up a big score.”

Asked about South Africa’s preparation to face spin, du Plessis said: “Leading up to a series like this, the quality that you’re going to get from some of the spinners, it’s not something you can just practice against in the nets. The quality of spin in this Test match and how they controlled it was fantastic. So that’s where we’ve to improve, especially in these conditions where you’ve to make a play. That’s what we’ll look into ahead of the next Test match.”

The idea of scrapping the traditional coin toss before test matches has found a “big fan” in Du Plessis, who believes it would help reduce home advantage and bring more balance.

The International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the sport, discussed the possibility in a meeting in May but decided to continue with what has been a ritual since the first test between Australia and England in 1877.

“I’m a big fan of taking away the toss,” du Plessis said after his team were beaten inside three days by Sri Lanka in the opening match of the two-Test series on Saturday.

“I think even in South Africa you’ll still prepare the conditions the way you prepare them now, but you just make sure that you bring some balance.” The second Test will begin in Colombo on July 20.