Duanne Olivier produced a hostile delivery to dismiss Kusal Mendis at Kingsmead on Friday. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

DURBAN – The Proteas made three crucial breakthroughs before the close, but will need patience to complete a victory in the first Test against Sri Lanka, fast bowler Duanne Olivier said on Friday.

Sri Lanka, needing 304 to win, were 83/3 at the end of the third day at Kingsmead, 221 runs short of their target.

Olivier, who claimed the third of three wickets which fell in three overs, said: “We are quite confident, but it’s not the sort of wicket where we can blast out a team.

“If we can just do the right thing over and over, I think we’ll get rewarded at the end.”

South Africa’s patience was tested when Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne put on 42 for the first wicket.

They were batting together for more than an hour, before Thirimanne (21) was tempted into an extravagant drive against Kagiso Rabada, and Proteas captain Faf du Plessis held a flying edge at second slip.

It was evidence again of a Sri Lankan propensity to play attacking shots against South Africa’s strong fast-bowling attack.

There was nothing flashy about Karunaratne’s dismissal in the next over, victim for the second time in the match of a close lbw decision in favour of Vernon Philander.

But Kusal Mendis contributed to his own downfall when Olivier replaced Philander, flashing at a short, lifting delivery before he had scored.

Debutant Oshada Fernando and first innings top-scorer Kusal Perera both went for their shots, but survived until the close.

“It’s probably their game plan to play a few shots,” said Olivier. “I do think it gives us opportunities to take wickets.”

The flurry of wickets negated Sri Lanka’s achievement in taking the last five South African wickets for eight runs.

Left-arm orthodox spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, 22, playing in his first Test, took 5/66 as South Africa were bowled out for 259 in their second innings.

Embuldeniya, who was selected after taking 14 wickets in two first-class matches for Sri Lanka A against Ireland A last month, bowled with excellent control with a high action, and started the collapse when he bowled Philander to end a 60-run sixth wicket stand with Du Plessis.

 “I was very happy to contribute to the team,” said Embuldeniya, who staked a claim to become Sri Lanka’s leading spinner following the retirement of Rangana Herath and the dropping of Dilruwan Perera. 

“My plan was just to bowl line and length.”

Embuldeniya said that although the pitch was slower than on the first two days, he had found the there was more bounce than in pitches in Sri Lanka.

Left-arm swing bowler Vishwa Fernando dismissed Du Plessis for 90 three overs later, and the rest of the batting crumbled.

Fernando took 4/71 to follow up a career-best 4/62 in the first innings.

Du Plessis played a solid innings, facing 182 balls and hitting 11 fours, before he padded up to a ball from Fernando which swung in and trapped him palpably in front of his stumps.

Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock (55) put on 96 for the fifth wicket. 

De Kock was in sparkling form in a 62-ball innings before he went back on his stumps to Embuldeniya, and was lbw to a ball which spun in to the left-hander and kept low.