Sri Lanka took four wickets in the evening session to fight back after a fluent century from Dean Elgar on day one of the first Test in Galle.
After dominating the first two sessions of the day, the Proteas will be disappointed to have let things slip in the evening. They will resume on day two with 268-5 on the board.
Immediately after tea Suranga Lakmal caused the SA batsmen some trouble, getting the ball to swing, and having a pair of close lbw shouts turned down.
He got the much-needed breakthrough three overs into the session, with Dean Elgar falling to a wide one outside off. The left-hander got a feather on it, and the keeper completed the catch. His score equalled the 103 he made against New Zealand at PE in 2013, but he will be upset at the way he got out, when he looked set for a big ton.
That wicket bought new skipper Hashim Amla to the crease. It took him a while to get going, trying to use his feet against spinners, but not succeeding. He and Faf du Plessis were slow after tea.
Despite occupying the crease for the best part of an hour, Amla never got his eye in and, after clipping Rangana Herath through the midwicket area for four, was out a few balls later trying to force one over the top. He mis-hit it and was caught by mid-off for 11.
Du Plessis was then joined by AB de Villiers and the pair consolidated for the next nine overs. But it was Du Plessis who fell to a rush of blood to the head next, dancing down the wicket and inside edging one on to his pad and into the hands of the short leg, off Herath. He made 80 and, like Elgar, would have been upset at getting out after looking set for a big score.
Quinton de Kock then joined De Villiers at the crease for a nervy last few overs. De Villiers was eventually bowled for 21, playing one on to his stumps off the second-last over of the day. Dale Steyn came out as nightwatchman, and he and De Kock, who is on 17, will continue in the morning, with the Proteas on 268-5.
Earlier in the day, Elgar and Du Plessis played themselves in cautiously after the lunch break. The left-hander attacked the spinners, going over the top, while Du Plessis was content to bide his time and rotate strike.
The first sign of danger came 40 minutes into the session when Rangana Herath reviewed an lbw appeal. It was more hopeful than anything else, as Du Plessis was a long way down the wicket and the ball was angling down the leg side. The decision was upheld and the batsmen continued their solid partnership, reaching 146-1 at drinks.
The introduction of Dilruwan Perera allowed Du Plessis to relieve the pressure that had been building. He was confident enough to come down the wicket with the ball turning into him and struck two boundaries off consecutive deliveries to inject some momentum into his innings.
Elgar went on to make history, becoming the first South African opening batsman to score a century in Sri Lanka. Kepler Wessels and Herschelle Gibbs previously jointly held the highest score with 92. The two batsmen piled on the runs before tea, reaching 194-1 at the break.
At the start of the day, Hashim Amla’s first toss as Test captain was successful, and he chose to bat on a typically hot morning in Galle.
Team news confirmed that Quinton de Kock would be the keeper given Ab de Villiers’ hamstring strain. That move meant new call up Stiaan van Zyl will have to wait a little longer for his Test debut.
There was also no place for uncapped spinner Dane Piedt, with the Proteas sticking to three seamers in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, backed up by the spin of Imran Tahir, with JP Duminy providing options with his off-breaks.
Conditions, and the pitch, looked ideal for batting, and the new opening pair of Alviro Petersen and Elgar, promoted to the slot left vacant by retired captain Graeme Smith, started confidently, seeing off the new ball and forcing Angelo Mathews to bring on his spinners early.
They reached their fifty partnership within the first hour, and looked solid before Petersen was trapped in front by off-spinner Dilruwan Perera when he was on 34. He reviewed the decision, and replays showed it would have just brushed leg stump. It was a marginal call, but upheld by the third umpire under the ‘umpire’s call’ ruling.
Petersen had to go and Du Plessis, elevated to No 3 to allow Amla some breathing room given his captaincy duties, strode to the crease. He and Elgar then batted fluently for the rest of the session, taking the Proteas to 111-1 at the break, with Elgar reaching his half-century off 74 balls.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Backpagepix
Report by Dan Gillespie and Gareth Stevens.