While South Africa are steeling themselves for a final-day battle, which could end in them breaking a lengthy hoodoo, their opponents are just as determined to ensure that 21 years of history is not wiped away today.
Veteran batsman Kumar Sangakkara insisted Sri Lanka were still in a great position to win, even with a spanner thrown in the works by the weather.
“Our chances are pretty good. It would have been good if the rest of the overs had been bowled today. I thought the wicket to the lefties with Rangana (Herath) bowling is going to be tough. If we can keep the pressure with Dilruwan (Perera) on the other end, that would be good,” he explained.
“In the second innings, we need Ajantha Mendis to continue contributing as well. If we can get about three wickets in the first session that will set us up nicely.”
There is not a hint of doubt in Sangakkara’s mind that they can still win this match, and square the series.
“Look, our mission is to win at all costs. The South Africans have played very well both in the ODI series and in the first Test. We were bit poor in Galle, but we need to be good (today) and push for a win,” he declared.
Sangakkara, who had a rare failure in the first innings, bounced back with a classy 72 yesterday, and his quick runs allowed Sri Lanka to declare with a lead of 368 runs.
But, typically, he was keener to pay tribute to his captain, Angelo Mathews, who chalked up a similarly fluent 63 not out.
“I was telling Angelo that his batting has been as good as anyone I have seen – even in tough conditions. He just seems to have that knack ever since he came into the side. He has shown a lot of maturity, and his leadership has been exemplary,” the veteran enthused.
“When we speak of young players, we tend to forget Angelo. He is only 27. He shows maturity beyond his age. I hope he will continue to enjoy the game, because he is a special player.”
The Sri Lankans are hoping the weather which derailed some of their plans yesterday will stay away today, so they can have a full go at the tourists. There are a minimum of 98 overs to be bowled today, but they need the rain to stay away.
“What can we do about the weather?” he sighed.
“It has been three good days and now, one bad day. Hopefully it will be a good day and we can get all overs in.”
Never short of a sharp word, Sangakkara also questioned the South Africans’ ambition in this game, saying that Sri Lanka had done all of the playing up to this point.
“Even in the first innings, I thought they played time rather than scoring runs. That allowed us to put pressure on them. The more negative you get, the more defensive shots you play. Sometimes that ties you down, and we are just happy to have fielders around the bat, to keep the pressure up,” he added.
That pressure will not relent today, but the Proteas will hope to have the last laugh, after four days of suckling on the hind tit. - The Star