The Proteas maintained the pressure on Sri Lanka by taking four wickets for 80 runs on day two of the third Test at the Wanderers.
That left the visitors, already two down in the three Test series, trailing by 346 after bowling out South Africa for 426 shortly after lunch. Bad light stopped play, and probably saved the Sri Lankans for further damage. Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada had two wickets apiece on a two-paced pitch which can only get worse.
Philander removed Dimuth Karunaratne after just four balls, but Kaushal Silva (13) and Kusal Mendis (41) looked strangely comfortable as they rebuilt the innings to 46-1 at tea.
But when Kagiso Rabada removed Silva immediately afterwards, having him caught behind off an unconvincing defensive shot, the slide began. Mendis fell trying to fend off an excellent delivery from Rabada and Dhananjaya de Silva played down the wrong line to Philander to be caught at point.
It had been a traumatic day all round against a ball that seamed and swung in the muggy atmosphere. The Proteas had resumed on 338-3 and were rudely disabused of the notion that they may run up an insurmountable score as five wickets went down for 60 runs before lunch, including day-one hero Hashim Amla, who scratched around for nine runs off 44 balls, taking his overnight 125 to 134 before edging behind off Nuwan Pradeep. In all, 88 runs were added for seven wickets.
Pradeep had a marvellous morning, taking 4-15 off seven overs: Faf du Plessis (16), Temba Bavuma (0), Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander (0). Lahiru Kumara closed it off by removing Wayne Parnell (23) and Quinton de Kock (34) but not before they had added a valuable 47 for the ninth wicket.
It was obvious the Sri Lankan bowlers had been encouraged to reflect on their wayward performance on day one as they came out bowling a much tighter line. The Proteas were given a rude awakening from the start, as Amla, who had celebrated a hundred in his hundredth Test on day one, took two blows on the hips. Faf du Plessis was dropped at second slip off the third ball he faced and then took two painful blows to his midriff.
Amla had given warning of the conditions after his innings on Thursday. ‘On this type of wicket you are never in,’ he said. ‘We batted first, thinking about day four and five. It will be difficult to bat on. We saw with the new ball, a lot of nip and it’s still shaping. It’s a challenging wicket.’
Not even he could have foreseen just how challenging it was.
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