The Emerging Proteas’ first unofficial Test hangs in the balance with Sri Lanka needing 153 runs with seven wickets in hand.
They will need an impressive bowling display on day four, and the early dismissal of opener Kaushal Silva, who is looking comfortable on 86 and is supported by Shammu Ashan, one of the top-scorers of the first innings, on 24.
Sri Lanka were offered a winning total of 310 after bowling out the young South Africans for 109 in their second innings.
At least the Emerging players have put up a better fight than their senior counterparts, although it was the left-arm spin of Malinda Pushpakumaray which again did the damage.
He picked up another six wickets, but at a vastly more effective rate, reflecting the deteriorating nature of the pitch. Whereas his first-innings six cost 126, the South Africans could take only 45 off him in the second effort. The spin of Kamindu Mendis accounted for another three wickets.
The Proteas had their excellent first innings of 394-9 declared to fall back on, but if this match ends in defeat, they may look back at another problem which affected the seniors: the failure to close off an innings.
The young Proteas had the Sri Lankans at 66-6, thanks mainly to the pace of Eathan Bosch and the offbreak of Junaid Dawood, but a 61 from No 8 bat Chamika Karunaratne (a name that haunted the seniors) in support of No 5 Ashan (51), enabled the lower order to add 128 valuable runs, ending on 196.
In their second innings, Tshepang Dithole top-scored with 34, off 68 balls; which was also the top strike-rate. The rest were tied in knots as they tried to defend their wickets.