Theunis de Bruyn reached an unbeaten 45 as the Proteas ended day three 351 runs behind, with Sri Lanka five wickets away from victory.
Sri Lanka started off and ended the day in full control. They batted smoothly in the first session and continued to wear down the Proteas by adding 86 runs to their hefty overnight lead of 365 runs.
Angelo Mathews was the final wicket to fall on 71 before Sri Lanka declared with a lead of 489 halfway through the first session, which left the Proteas with two and a half days to complete what would be an outstanding series-saving victory.
Lady Luck was on form during the start of the Proteas’ innings, as Dean Elgar almost threw his wicket away twice, both off failed sweep strokes. His first sweep – with his score on five– found a huge top edge which Dilruwan Perera dropped after running from square leg towards mid-wicket. Elgar then received a non-turner from Dilruwan Perera, mistimed another wild sweep, and the ball crashed into the stumps. The opener was fortunate to remain at the crease, as the TV umpire ruled the delivery a no-ball.
Markram was fortunate to be dropped on five by Mathews at first slip after edging Rangana Herath behind, but he failed to capitalise on his luck and was given out lbw on 14 by umpire Nigel Llong as Herath got his first wicket of the innings.
There were clear signs of the Proteas’ intentions as they reached 42-1 at tea. Elgar’s close dismissals came off sweeps, and De Bruyn showed the same intent when he hit two fours with sweep shots for the eight runs he had to his name. De Bruyn had a nervy couple of minutes before tea and survived two reviews for lbw on the umpire’s call.
Elgar’s luck continued after tea, nicking another Perera delivery to Niroshan Dickwella behind the stumps. Elgar had already returned to the dressing room before being called back by the on-field umpires after TV replays showed that the spinner had overstepped the mark.
It was finally fourth-time lucky for birthday boy Perera, who trapped Elgar lbw on 37, leaving the Proteas two wickets down for 80 runs. Hashim Amla also survived an lbw appeal on the umpire’s call but was bowled shortly after by Herath for just six runs.
Du Plessis came in and smashed Herath for four with a sweep shot to get off the mark and continued with his pragmatic approach before Akila Dananjaya again rattled the Proteas batters, having Du Plessis adjudged to be caught at first slip after the appeal went to the TV umpire. The Proteas skipper was visibly upset to be given out as he thought his bat had hit his pad at the moment the ball passed the inside edge of his bat, which showed up as an edge on the Snickometer.
Bowling hero Keshav Maharaj came in as nightwatchman but was trapped lbw for a golden duck, but Temba Bavuma (14) saw out the day with De Bruyn (45).
Sri Lanka (second innings) 275-5d – Dimuth Karunaratne 85, Danushka Gunathilaka 61, Angelo Mathews 71, Keshav Maharaj 3-154, Lungi Ngidi 1-9
South Africa (second innings) 139-5 – Theunis de Bruyn 45*, Dean Elgar 37, Temba Bavuma 14*, Akila Dananjaya 2-35, Rangana Herath 2-54.
Sri Lanka need five wickets to win.
Photo: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)