Despite selecting an extra batsman, the Proteas were skittled out for 124 by tea on day two of the second Test in Colombo.
The Proteas proved to have learned nothing from the first Test in Galle. The crushing 278-run defeat exposed two obvious weaknesses for the visitors, their ability to read the spin and their struggles to dismiss the tail-enders.
Both weaknesses were exploited on day two in the choking heat in Colombo. Having stalled Sri Lanka’s innings to 277-9 by stumps on day one, the first session on day two saw the Proteas bowlers struggle to find the final wicket.
This saw Rangana Herath (35) and Akila Dananjaya (43) string together a 74-run 10th-wicket partnership to lift their side’s first-innings total to 338.
The Proteas’ woes deepened at the start of their innings. They lost Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn and Aiden Markram before lunch, all three batsmen failing to read Herath and Dananjaya’s spin.
Faf du Plessis, however, came out firing after lunch. He took on the Sri Lankan spinners, smashing three consecutive boundaries off the last three balls of Dananjaya’s first over. He followed this with a four and six off Herath, as the Proteas cleared the 50-run mark.
Hashim Amla failed to support his skipper. In an attempt to play a front foot block, Amla (19) edged a ball from Dilruwan Perera onto his pads, before shooting up to short leg. Perera has dismissed Amla in all three of his innings to date in the series, having claimed his wicket twice in Galle.
In a repeat of Galle, Du Plessis again lost his wicket just short of a half-century. With his score on 48 off 51 deliveries, he attempted a sweep shot but found a faint bottom edge that was gathered by Niroshan Dickwella.
Quinton de Kock mirrored his captain by trusting the sweep shot to get off the mark. He hit two boundaries off his first four deliveries but continued to struggle with his shot selection. His poor choices led to a thick edge when playing away from his body with his score on eight, however, the catch was put down by Dhananjaya de Silva at slip.
Temba Bavuma was next to go as the Proteas lost their sixth with just 114 runs on the board. Bavuma attempted to beat the man at short-leg, but instead hit directly to him, as Perera picked up his third wicket.
Maharaj fell on two shortly after, his mistimed sweep allowed the ball to hit the back of his bat before looping to square leg for Dananjaya’s third wicket.
De Kock decided to proceed with his natural batting approach but never looked confident at the crease, eventually being trapped leg-before after a quick-fire 31-ball 32. That was Dananjaya’s fourth wicket, and he completed his second Test five-for with a similar delivery to remove Dale Steyn for a duck two balls later, also leg-before.
Perera took his fourth wicket in dismissing Kagiso Rabada as the Proteas fell short of the follow-on target and trail by 214 runs.
Sri Lanka (first innings) 338 – Dhananjaya de Silva 60, Danushka Gunathilaka 57, Dimuth Karunaratne 53, Keshav Maharaj 9-129.
Proteas (first innings) 124 – Faf du Plessis 48, Quinton de Kock 32, Akila Dananjaya 5-52, Dilruwan Perera 4-40
Photo: Shara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images