Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne hailed his happy, united team after they completed a historic series triumph against South Africa at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Oshada Fernando and Kusal Mendis propelled Sri Lanka to an eight-wicket win on the third day of the second Test, playing exactly the sort of cricket that Karunaratne wanted.
"We told them, 'play your normal game, if you can hit over the fielder go for it'," said Karunaratne after the unheralded Sri Lankans became the first team from Asia to win a Test series in South Africa.
Fernando (75 not out) and Mendis (84 not out) attacked the South African bowlers from the start of play on Saturday, taking Sri Lanka from an overnight 60 for two to the victory target of 197 in just over two hours of uninhibited stroke play.
"When you play like that, South Africa are on the back foot," said Karunaratne.
Appointed only as an "interim" captain, Karunaratne said he had a simple message for his players when he took over at a time of apparent turmoil in Sri Lankan cricket.
"When I started, I said to my boys, 'whatever happens you have to keep smiling, keep enjoying. If you're not enjoying you don't get to a hundred percent'."
Karunaratne praised the contribution of his bowlers, notably the inexperienced Vishwa Fernando and Kasun Rajitha, who took 12 and nine wickets respectively over the two matches.
"Our bowling line-up did a really good job, especially the youngsters," he said.
South Africa, however, witnessed their run of seven consecutive home Test series wins come to an end and captain Faf du Plessis said their misfiring batsmen must shoulder the blame.
"I thought we were poor with the bat throughout the series," Du Plessis said. "I thought in general through the series both teams probably didn't perform with the bat on two pitches that were very conducive to scoring runs.
"Today for the first time there was a real display of what should have happened in the rest of the series, two guys getting together and scoring some big runs.
"On this wicket we should have scored a lot more runs."
SCORES IN BRIEF
SOUTH AFRICA: First innings 222 and second innings 128.
SRI LANKA: First innings 154 and second innings 197 for 2 (Karunaratne 19, Fernando 75 not out, Mendis 84 not out; Rabada 1-53, Olivier 1-46)
Result: Sri Lanka won by eight wickets and clinched the two-match series 2-0.
Player-of-the-match: Kusal Mendis.
Player-of-the-series: Kusal Perera.
What they said
Congratulations @OfficialSLC for achieving what no other Sri Lankan team has ever come close to. Huge character shown by all concerned. The team, coaching staff and management having been under tremendous pressure. A team effort for the ages. Keep believing and keep fighting.
- Kumar Sangakkara
Soooo happy for the guys. An achievement to cherish for a life time. Resilience when there was no hope... Truly incredible!!! Well done!!! Never lose hope!!
- Russel Arnold
Really happy for the boys, fantastic team effort. This series win among the Top achievements of Sri Lanka Cricket. Well done @iamdimuth & team, coaching staff.
- Rangana Herath
Arguably the best day ever in the history of Asian test Cricket n surely the best day ever for #SLC. Well done @IamDimuth and team! You made the entire nation proud #LionsRoar #Speechless
- Danushka Gunathilaka
Congrats @OfficialSLC for achieving what no other Sri Lanka team has done. Fantastic display getting them all out with a low score in both test matches and the fast bowlers for an outstanding performance! Well Done Guys, u believed u can, and u did! Enjoy the Win.
- Chaminda Vaas