The Proteas lost two quick wickets as they battled to 79 for two at lunch on the first day of the third Test against Sri Lanka, at the Wanderers.
At the crease were Hashim Amla (6), in his 100th Test match, and JP Duminy (23), rebuilding after two wickets went down in five balls with the score on 45, just when the Proteas had seemingly embedded themselves on a lively wicket. It could have been three down, but Amla was dropped in the gully off Suranga Lakmal – a low, hard chance – when on five.
Duminy was leading the recovery, playing with confidence and striking four fours in his 23, off 30 balls.
Stephen Cook, on 10 off 41 balls, was the first to go, lbw to Angelo Mathews, while Dean Elgar (27 off 54) was taken at first slip after playing a bizarre half-shot, a cross between a cut and a back-foot drive, at a rising ball from Lahiru Kumara.
Cook, in his first Test on his home ground, was ill-advised to review his decision, being so low and plumb. There was a more searching question as to whether Lakmal had overstepped, but he made it with millimetres to spare.
Elgar had also got away with a couple of searching deliveries, one of which sneaked through on the inside, and another off a thin edge which dropped short of the slips. Otherwise, they were largely untroubled, and the Sri Lankans wasted more than a few with deliveries, bowling too wide to tempt the bat.
The openers had played so carefully to that point after Faf du Plessis had declared his faith in his batting line-up on a greenish wicket under a generous cloud cover. It was more the thought that the slightly cracked wicket would deteriorate that probably influenced his decision.
It was nonetheless a questionable choice, given that the Proteas had elected to go with a four-prong pace attack, handing Knights paceman Duanne Olivier his first cap.
Olivier sits comfortably on the top of the standings for most wickets taken in this year’s Sunfoil Series but captain Du Plessis admitted he knows little about. ‘I faced him for he first time in the nets. There’s definitely something there,’ he said.
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