GALLE – South Africa were at least able to avert their lowest score in Test cricket since re-admission with Vernon Philander and captain Faf du Plessis putting together an unbroken 35-run partnership for the seventh wicket after the Proteas top-order lost five wickets to spin on the second morning of the first Test.
Philander, though, was fortunate to not also be back in the dressing-room already when he challenged an LBW decision. The DRS showed the ball struck him outside the line of the stumps and the Proteas all-rounder rallied on until lunch time along with his skipper.
South Africa’s lowest Test score is 79 against India in Nagpur back in 2015
The challenge of facing high-quality spin on turning subcontinent pitches has certainly struck the Proteas bang in the face.
After fighting back valiantly with the bat during the final session on the opening day, Sri Lanka wasted no time in employing spin from both ends in the four overs before stumps.
It was enough time for the wily old fox Rangana Herath to bamboozle South Africa’s impressive young opener Aiden Markram, who is on his first international tour of the subcontinent. It was a short and sharp lesson with Herath following up a quick straight length ball with one dangled up slower, just outside off that drew Markram forward to beat him for length and take the outside edge.
The trial by spin continued on Friday morning with Herath and off-spinner Dilruwan Perera combining in expert fashion from both ends. Herath was the first to strike when he removed nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj with the 15th ball of the morning. Maharaj departed lbw for three.
The experienced Dean Elgar followed Maharaj to the pavilion shortly afterwards. This was a massive blow to the Proteas’ chances after Elgar struck a defiant century in the corresponding fixture at this venue four years ago. On this occasion he only managed eight before being caught at slip off Herath. South Africa were 13/3 at that stage.
A mini-recovery – under the circumstances – was staged between Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma with the pair sharing a 27-run stand for the fourth wicket. Amla, though, was dismissed for 15 when a Sri Lankan review showed the ball flicked up on to his glove on the way to short-leg.
South Africa plunged further into the quagmire on the stroke of drinks when Bavuma (17) mistimed a sweep shot and was clean bowled by Lakshan Sandakan.
The Proteas’ misery continued when Quinton de Kock was clean bowled by Dilruwan, who drifted the delivery into middle stump before it turned to hit the off stump.
There was some controversy surrounding De Kock’s dismissal with the South Africans believing Dilruwan had over-stepped, but the umpire deemed it a legal delivery and the Proteas wicket-keeper was on his way for three.
(Update) Day 2, Lunch
Sri Lanka: 287 all out
South Africa: 86/6 (Du Plessis 22*, Philander 16*, Herath 2/34, Perera 3/28)