The Proteas ended day two with a lead of 170 after losing four wickets for 126 runs in the final session at Kingsmead. KHALID MOHIDIN reports.
The contest continued to seesaw between the two sides during a compelling day of Test cricket. The momentum first shifted in favour of the hosts after an exceptional bowling performance on the second morning. Dale Steyn led the pack by taking 4-48, while Vernon Philander (2-32), Kagiso Rabada (2-48) and Duanne Olivier (1-36) all made valuable contributions.
After the Proteas were bowled out for 235 on day one, it seemed as though Sri Lanka would climb all over the hosts to set a commanding lead. This was not the case, however, as the Proteas skittled Sri Lanka for 191 to offer them the cushion of a 44-run lead.
Sri Lanka exposed the Proteas’ batting woes once again in their second innings as they endured a similar struggle to their first innings performance.
The hosts lost four wickets in the final session of the day to provide Sri Lanka with a foothold back into the contest. Aiden Markram (28) looked solid until he chased a wide delivery and edged Kasun Rajitha to second slip.
Hashim Amla got off to a healthy start before an attempted cut flew to gully as Vishwa Fernando took his first wicket of the innings.
Debutant spinner Lasith Embuldeniya caused further trouble for the hosts as he trapped Temba Bavuma leg before with his score on just three to reduce the Proteas to 77-3 after 22.2 overs.
Dean Elgar worked hard to hold the Proteas’ innings together, but the left-handed opener could only manage 35 before he offered Embuldeniya a sharp caught-and-bowled opportunity, which the bowler pocketed to reduce South Africa to 95-4.
This placed a mountain of pressure on captain Faf du Plessis as well as Quinton de Kock, the hero of South Africa’s first innings. Their first task was to see out the day’s play, which they duly did in taking the Proteas to 126-4 and a lead of 170.
The pair will need to take ownership by lifting the Proteas to a lead of at least 250 and then hoping the Proteas tail will wag again to give their powerful bowling attack every chance of rolling Sri Lanka in their second innings to take a 1-0 series lead.
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