South Africa’s premier fast bowler took five wickets to leave Sri Lanka on 283-9 at the end of the third day in Galle.
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander took up the attack after the tea interval. Philander’s pace was down and Steyn was too short initially to make use of the reverse swing on offer.
In the 71st over Steyn got one up to the bat and tailing away from Lahiru Thirimanne. The batsman had a momentary lapse in concentration, playing away from his body, and nicking off with Quinton de Kock, who has had a great game with the gloves, doing the rest. The end of Thirimanne’s fighting 38 left Sri Lanka on 190-5.
Encouraged by the late movement, Steyn continued to bowl full which troubled the new batsman Dinesh Chandimal. The bowler then dragged one down, and thinking that a scoring opportunity had presented itself, Chandimal tried to pull it away. He succeeded only in finding the safe hands of Alviro Petersen at mid-wicket and was on his way for just six, reducing Sri Lanka to 200-6.
Steyn’s tail was well and truly up and he had the bit between his teeth. Another reverse swinging delivery on a good length found Perera’s edge, sending him packing for a duck and giving Steyn his fifth wicket of the innings.
The arrival of the tail saw Angelo Mathews shift gears, hitting 20 runs of a Morkel over to bring up his 50. While Rangana Herath held up the other end, Mathews took the score past the follow-on target and ensured that South Africa would be the next team to bat.
The partnership added 71 and took Sri Lanka to 272-8 before Mathews fell for 89, bowled by Imran Tahir after trying one big hit too many. It wasn’t a great period for South Africa as Hashim Amla allowed the game to wonder. The seamers were rested, while the spinners allowed runs to flow freely, even though the second new ball was available.
The ball was eventually taken in the 98th over and Morne Morkel immediately got a few to clatter into de Kock’s gloves. The extra bounce paid dividence as Suranga Lakmal was caught behind off the final ball of the day to leave the hosts on 283-9.
Despite the innings’ best partnership between Mathews and Herath, South Africa will be pleased with the progress made in the final session of day three. They lead by 172 with the pitch already playing some tricks. It will take a monumental effort for Sri Lanka to avoid defeat over the next two days.
Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka batted cautiously after their two most experienced batsmen were dismissed in the morning. They managed to negotiate the afternoon session on day three with only one casualty.
It was a session of hard toil for the Proteas, with little reward. Tahir and Steyn started things off, with Tahir extracting turn straight away. Unfortunately, the leg-spinner’s tactic of throwing it up and getting the batsmen to play proved expensive, relieving the pressure created at the other end.
Steyn was tight, extracting a little bit of reverse swing, but not enough to trouble the batsmen. It was the change of bowler, JP Duminy replacing Tahir, that got the wicket, with Upul Tharanga stepping down the track to one that turned past his bat, and getting stumped by De Kock.
He went for a well-played 83 on his return to the Test side after seven years in the wilderness. This brought captain Mathews to the crease. After a quick start to the session, the wicket saw the Sri Lankan run rate dip, and by drinks they had made 43 runs for the loss of Tharanga, taking them to 147-4.
Things continued slowly in the second hour of the session, with Sri Lanka focusing on rebuilding the innings. They reached 182-4 by tea, 273 runs adrift of South Africa going into the evening session. Thirmanne and Mathews went into the break on 32 and 24 respectively.
In the morning session, Sri Lanka’s opening pair of Tharanga and Kaushal Silva started proceedings on day three with their side on 30 without loss, and were troubled by little early on. Despite the best efforts of Steyn and Philander, there was very little in the pitch for the seaming duo, and Sri Lanka looked set to negotiate the first hour with ease.
But a little over half an hour into the day Steyn managed to produce a sharp bouncer, catching Silva off guard. He hooked the lifter down to long leg, where Philander sprinted in and took a low, diving catch to remove the right-hander for eight.
With his removal, though, in came the vastly experienced Kumar Sangakkara. Looking unruffled, he and Tharanga successfully saw off Steyn and Philander, despite a bizarre incident in Philander’s sixth over.
Bowling to Tharanga, Philander managed to get a back of a length ball to nip back in, and there was a sound as it went through to the keeper. The Proteas went up, hoping for either an lbw decision, or the caught behind, but nothing was given. They decided not to review, which was just as well, as replays showed the ball had hit neither pad nor bat, but rather had brushed the off bail as it went past, but leaving the wickets undisturbed.
The morning was then interrupted by a sudden rainstorm that came in the 32nd over, with Sri Lanka on 98-1. It was shortlived, though, with the players off the field for no more than 10 minutes.
The break was enough to ruin Sangakkara’s concentration and Morkel got him to play one on to the stumps two balls after returning to the field. Sangakkara was furious with himself, as the shot, trying to pull one from outside off, was not necessary.
Steyn then trapped Mahela Jayawardene lbw with an inswinging yorker, which sent the players to lunch on a high. The late wicket turned the session into a successful one for the Proteas, as both of Sri Lanka’s danger men were back in the hut.
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