Dean Elgar moved to 76 not out, as South Africa recovered to 147 for four at tea on day one of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Newlands in Cape Town on Monday.
Elgar and captain Faf du Plessis shared a 76-run partnership, which almost saw the visitors go without a wicket through a second session played under substantially sunnier skies than the first.
Spinner Rangana Herath, however, struck three overs before the interval to remove du Plessis. The Proteas captain, who was dropped by mid-off fielder Upul Tharanga on 31, fell for 38 after edging some sharp turn to first slip Angelo Mathews.
The left-handed Elgar moved to a fifth Test career half-ton and, given his superb conversion rate, will be targeting a sixth century in the final session.
Earlier, Mathews’ decision to bowl first – on a somewhat green pitch, in overcast conditions – after winning the toss brought early reward, as Stephen Cook and JP Duminy perished for ducks, while Hashim Amla’s trying stretch of form continued.
Suranga Lakmal, who relished a maiden Test five-wicket haul in the series opener at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, struck in the first over of the day. Cook feathered an outside edge to stand-in wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis.
Amla and Elgar successfully saw off an increasingly threatening opening spell from Lakmal, collecting a 66-run stand inside 22 overs against Nuwan Pradeep, Mathews and Lahiru Kumara. Herath did not bowl before lunch.
Kumara, selected ahead of Dushmantha Chameera, repaid the faith by bowling Amla with some sniping seam movement into the right-hander. Out for 29, the veteran Amla hasn’t scored a Test half-century in nine innings.
Duminy departed five deliveries later. Caught off guard by a bit of extra bounce, he tickled another catch to Mendis, whose glovework continued to prove sound in the absence of the ill Dinesh Chandimal.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis (captain), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbott, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada.
Sri Lanka: Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis (wicketkeeper), Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga, Rangana Herath, Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep.
Jonhenry Wilson, at Newlands.