The Wanderers wicket spat fire and brimstone as the Sri Lankans took five quick wickets, including day-one hero Hashim Amla, to hold the Proteas to 398-8 at lunch on day two of the third Test.
At the crease were Quinton de Kock, on 17 off 29 balls, and Wayne Parnell, on 12.
It was obvious the Sri Lankan bowlers had been encouraged to reflect on their wayward performance on day one, when three wickets went down for 338, as they came out bowling a much tighter line. The ball swung in the close, muggy air and fizzed off the surface to make batting a lottery. Nuwan Pradeep was the principal beneficiary, taking 4-15 off seven overs.
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.
Nightwatchman Duanne Olivier faced 20 balls for three runs before he got a faint edge off Angelo Mathews, but while that did not cause much consternation, what happened afterwards certainly did. Faf du Plessis, dropped at second slip off the third ball he faced, from Lakmal, then took two painful blows to his midriff. He fought back with two fours punched off Pradeep, but it could not last. The following over from Pradeep, a delivery nipped back and found a thick edge on the way to Kusal Mendis at second slip.
Temba Bavuma, though, had only himself to blame as he pushed hard at his second ball, away from the body, to be snapped up with a good catch by Kaushal Silva.
Amla scratched around for nine runs off 44 balls when he fell to an athletic dive by Dinesh Chandimal as the ball leapt from the shoulder of his bat. It was a procession and Vernon Philander soon joined it as an unplayable ball leapt up and took his glove on the way to Chandimal for Pradeep’s fourth of the morning.
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, losing five wickets for 60 runs.
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