The Proteas were quick to strike back after being bowled out for 426, but Sri Lanka settled to take tea on 46-1 on day two of the third Test at the Wanderers.
Dimuth Karunaratne lasted just four balls from Vernon Philander before he edged to Quinton de Kock – and that was after escaping an appeal off a similar delivery the ball before.
But at the crease were Kaushal Silva on 12 and Kusal Mendis, who pulled Philander for six, on 33, solidly building a partnership.
The Sri Lanka stand was in remarkable contrast to the Proteas’ rearguard effort, when they folded shortly after lunch, having added just 88 for seven wickets on what was then a vicious Wanderers wicket.
Having resumed their innings on 338-3, the Proteas lost five quick wickets for 60 runs before lunch, including day-one hero Hashim Amla, as the the ball seamed and swung in the muggy atmosphere.
Nuwal Pradeep was the principal beneficiary, taking 4-15 off seven overs in the morning session. De Kock (31) and Wayne Parnell (23) added a valuable 47 for the ninth wicket before Parnell slashed one to deep point off Lahiru Kumara. De Kock followed 11 balls later, in similar fashion, holing out to deep point, giving Kumara four for the innings.
It was obvious the Sri Lankan bowlers had been encouraged to reflect on their wayward performance on day one as they came out bowling a much tighter line. 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 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 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.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images