After a poor series at home against England and two winless tours of New Zealand and Australia, Sri Lanka flew to South Africa.
There was a lot of talk about it being pretty harsh on an inexperienced side to face three difficult tours back-to-back – and that too in the span of four months.
Nobody really gave Sri Lanka an iota of chance of winning a Test match here in South Africa, let alone the series.
With the record, recent form and everything in the world stacked against this Sri Lankan side, they went on to do something that no other Asian side (not even India or Pakistan) had ever done.
In fact, it was something that only two other teams had achieved before.
Sri Lanka defied all odds as they pulled off one of the biggest heists in Test cricket history. They registered a 2-0 series win over South Africa as they became the first-ever Asian side to win a Test series in South Africa.
Before today, only Australia and England had won Test series’ in South Africa. It just underlines the fact that it’s not easy to tour the Rainbow Nation and go there and win a Test series.
Also, the last time South Africa lost a Test series at home was in 2015-16 when England won the series 2-1. On the other hand, Sri Lanka were thrashed by England at home first before they got another pasting in Australia as they lost six out of their last seven Tests (with one Test ending in a draw in New Zealand).
Remember, just ahead of this Test series, Dinesh Chandimal was sacked as the captain of this Test team and was also dropped.
Lots of chopping and changing, fast bowlers getting injured left, right and centre. Then there was the injury of their best player, Angelo Mathews.
Nothing, absolutely nothing went right for the Lankans in the lead up to this Test series.
However, under a new skipper (Dimuth Karunaratne), Sri Lanka fought like there was no tomorrow.
After meekly surrendering in Australia, Sri Lanka picked themselves up and roared, maybe pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of Test cricket.
It was Kusal Perera in the first Test who led the charge. He struck a fine fifty in the first innings but he had a bigger, a better and a Test match-defying knock in store for the second innings.
He struck a phenomenal 153 taking Sri Lanka home from a near-impossible situation. 78 runs were needed when No. 11 Vishwa Fernando walked out to bat but Fernando fought like a soldier while Perera took charge and defied cricketing logic as he took the visitors over the line in what was a heist.
Just like the first Test, they started well as they bowled really well to bowl the Proteas out for 222. But batting failed as they were shot out for 154.
However, an inspired bowling attack blew away the hosts for 128 and chased down 197 to create history in the Rainbow nation.
They conceded the lead in both games but didn’t lose hope. They battled it out and despite being in perilously bad positions, they found a way to survive.
Players put their hands up and delivered in crunch situations. Vishwa Fernando was the star with the ball as he picked up 12 wickets. He was ably supported by Kasun Rajitha and the experienced Suranga Lakmal.
Lasith Embuldeniya did well on debut as well. Dhananjaya de Silva filled in really well as a spinner after Embuldeniya dislocated his thumb in the second Test.
Kusal Perera was brilliant in that first Test in Durban and the more you write on that knock, the lesser it is. Oshada Fernando was excellent on debut as well as he scored 131 runs in the series and fought hard.
The series might just prove to be the coming of age for this Sri Lankan side. The youngsters stepped up beautifully. This was certainly one of the age-defying results in the history of Test cricket.