Stephen Cook scored 108 not out to steer the Proteas to 221-2 at tea on day three at St George’s Park.
South Africa’s opening batsmen have fired for the second time in this match. After amassing 104 for the first wicket in the first innings – a crucial partnership considering how the Proteas subsequently collapsed to 286 all out – Cook and Dean Elgar clubbed together for another century stand of 116.
Twenty-two overs were lost on day two due to bad light. Rain has interrupted play on day three twice already. Yet, the Proteas remain on course for a mammoth second-innings total and there is still plenty of time left in this contest.
Sri Lanka fought hard to stay in the game on days one and two. Their performance on day three, however, has been well below par.
Earlier today, the visitors lost their last three wickets in the space of 35 minutes. The Sri Lankan bowlers and fielders have failed to show the same intensity and determination in the second innings that they did in the first. Captain Angelo Mathews has looked devoid of ideas.
The Proteas will be pleased with their progress over the course of this match. Vernon Philander set the tone with the very first delivery of the day.
It was all Dhananjaya de Silva could do to find an edge to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. Five balls later, Philander had Suranga Lakmal caught at mid-on. That dismissal marked his 11th five-wicket haul in Tests. He finished with figures of 5-45.
Cook and Elgar then proceeded to set a great platform. The hosts led by as many as 197 runs when Elgar attempted to pull Lakmal for four, mistimed his stroke, and was caught at mid-on.
Lakmal nearly had a second when Cook, on 62, flashed at a wide delivery. Unfortunately for the visitors, De Silva put the relatively easy chance down in the gully. Cook and Hashim Amla then went on to amass another big partnership of 105 runs.
Shortly before tea, Cook reached the 100-mark (in 152 balls). The opener has now scored three centuries in seven Tests.
Amla looked to be in good touch too before he walked across his stumps right before tea and was trapped lbw by Nuwan Pradeep. The dismissal marked the 10,000th time a player has been given lbw in history.
The Proteas will look to set Sri Lanka a target in the region of 400. Australia currently hold the record for the highest successful run chase in Tests at St George’s Park (having made 271 in the fourth innings back in 1997). Sri Lanka will need to break that record to win this Test match.
SA 1st innings 286 – Duminy 63, Cook 59, Lakmal 5-63, Herath 2-48
SL 1st innings 205 – De Silva 43, Mathews 39, Philander 5-45, Abbott 3-63,
SA 2nd innings 221-2 – Cook 108 not out, Elgar 52, Amla 48, Lakmal 1-50
South Africa lead by 302 runs