Suranga Lakmal took four wickets to reduce South Africa to 267-6 at stumps on day one at St George’s Park.
The Proteas will be disappointed with their performance on the opening day of the three-Test series against Sri Lanka. By contrast, the visitors will pleased with their determination and accuracy, and ultimately the fact that they have prevented the more fancied South Africans from running away with the contest.
After Proteas captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and decided to bat – a call based on the threat of spinner Rangana Herath in the fourth innings on a dry, deteriorating track – the South African openers showed patience and poise to accumulate 104 runs. Thereafter, the likes of JP Duminy and Du Plessis himself made promising starts.
But while the Proteas clubbed together for several significant partnerships on day one, no individual went on to get a big score. Duminy dominated the bowling in the period before tea, but was strangled and then outfoxed by Herath in an afternoon session that belonged to the visitors.
The Sri Lanka bowling unit deserves credit. They kept the scoring rate down for much of day one. While they failed to claim a wicket in the opening session, they stuck to their task in the period that followed lunch.
Lakmal heaped the pressure on Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar with his accurate line outside off-stump. A subtle change in line then proved the undoing of Cook. Four overs later, Lakmal had Elgar caught behind too.
Suddenly, the Proteas were 105-2. Two new batsmen were at the crease, and the out-of-sorts Hashim Amla was one of them. Amla took 23 balls to get off the mark.
By contrast, Duminy looked to be in sublime touch. The left-handed batsman made his intentions clear when he drove the first delivery he faced – from Lakmal – for four. Thereafter, Duminy continued to find the offside fence regularly. He stroked nine boundaries during the second session and scored at quicker than a run a ball.
But Lakmal kept at Amla, and was rewarded for his persistence when he had the dangerous South African caught behind soon after tea. It was at this point where things started to go wrong for the hosts.
The introduction of Herath had the desired effect. Duminy attempted to sweep the left-arm spinner, misjudged the flight of the delivery, and was trapped plumb in front. Herath claimed his second victim five overs later when Temba Bavuma was out lbw.
Lakmal wasn’t done yet, though. The Sri Lankan seamer had the South African captain caught in the slips before the close of play. He finished the day with career best figures of 4-62, and will have the opportunity to claim his first Test five-for when play resumes on day two.
SA 267-6 – Duminy 63, Cook 59, Lakmal 4-62, Herath 2-48
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