The Proteas let themselves down with the bat, but found redemption with the ball as they pinned Sri Lanka against the ropes at the Wanderers.
Sri Lanka finished the day with a five-run lead, but they’ve lost four second-innings wickets, putting the Proteas in control of the second Test.
After a poor first day, Sri Lanka got themselves back into the contest by bowling as well as they have the entire series, picking up four wickets in the morning session.
The Proteas overnight pair of Dean Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen started quickly, going at a rate in excess of four per over for the first half an hour at the crease.
Elgar brought up his century during this period, his 13th in Test cricket. It was an innings of immense focus during which he was brutal on any short or too straight.
However, Elgar’s departure sparked an almighty implosion before lunch. Van der Dussen (67) gloved one to the keeper down the leg side before Faf du Plessis got an absolute gem of a delivery that caught his edge. Quinton de Kock followed soon thereafter, edging to second slip.
De Kock looked completely devoid of confidence, reflected in his timing and shot selection. He has done little to counter suggestions that the weight of responsibility he carries is affecting his form. He has had an ordinary Test season to date. The sooner they free him from captaincy in all formats, the better.
It would be remiss not to note the role some excellent bowling played in the tourists’ resurgence. Dusan Shanaka, Dushmantha Chameera and Vishwa Fernando excelled, finding lines, lengths and movement that had been absent from their bowling effort to date.
Temba Bavuma and Wiaan Mulder settled things down, taking the Proteas to 256-5 at lunch, a lead of 99. However, Fernando – who finished with figures of 5-101 – ripped through them after the break. The Proteas lost eight wickets for 82 runs on day two, which has opened the door for the tourists.
The Proteas took a 145-run lead into the Sri Lanka second innings. It was sizeable enough for them to be aggressive in their approach.
Lungi Ngidi got the hosts off to the perfect start when he bowled the dangerous Kusal Perera through the gate. Sri Lanka survived the remainder of the afternoon session without losing another wicket. However, Ngidi then took two identical wickets, first Lahiru Thirimanne edged one down the leg side to De Kock, after which Kusal Mendis succumbed, this time to a full-length dive from the Proteas skipper.
Minod Bhanuka then tried to pull a 150km/h Anrich Nortje bouncer and succeeded only at top-edging it miles into the air. Keshav Maharaj tracked the ball’s flight as it arced over his head and produced an excellent diving catch to dismiss the batsman.
Dimuth Karunaratne was unbeaten on 91 at stumps, supported by Niroshan Dickwella (18). They are the last notable Sri Lankan batsmen and the Proteas will know that early wickets on day three of the Test could translate into an early finish.