Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne plays a shot on his way to an unbeaten 91 at stumps on Day 2 of the second Test against South Africa at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne plays a shot on his way to an unbeaten 91 at stumps on Day 2 of the second Test against South Africa at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

SA give Sri Lanka a path back into the second Test

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jan 4, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG – At 218/1, midway through the morning’s play, South Africa was well on the way to implementing the plan discussed prior to the start of the second day.

Bat big, bat once, get Sri Lanka back in on a surface with inconsistent bounce and plenty of seam movement, probably late on day three. The best laid plans of mice and batsmen, and all that.

Dean Elgar had by then already completed his 13th Test century, an innings that now has taken on enormous importance for the home team. That Elgar would be the only one to register a hundred would certainly have come as a surprise to those paying attention to this second Test.

South Africa’s players had talked about building on from the progress they made in the first Test, where the side scored 600 for the first time in five years.

A more standard measure for Test match batting is how many times a team scores 400 - South Africa, upon reaching that figure in Centurion, achieved it for just the fourth time in 29 innings.

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They didn’t manage 400 here when it looked for all the world like they would thanks to Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen, who shared a partnership of 184 for the second wicket. The next highest partnership in the South African innings on Monday was for the 10th wicket, between Lungi Ngidi and Lutho Sipamla, which was worth 19 runs.

South Africa collapsed from 218/1 to 302 all out in 24.2 overs - 84/9, against reasonably disciplined bowling, but nothing that would justify such an implosion. Combined with a largely listless effort with the ball after tea - and it must be acknowledged some terrific skill and determination shown by the tourists captain, Dimuth Karunaratne, who copped a nasty blow on the thumb - that collapse has seen the Sri Lankans get their foot back in the door as far as this match is concerned, not something many would have envisaged at the start of the second day.

Batting collapses have been the norm for South Africa in the last few seasons. From Visakhapatnam to Pune, Ranchi to Joburg - twice in two seasons at the latter - South Africa have lost wickets in clumps.

Partly that is down to good bowling - they’ve faced the likes of Bumrah, Ashwin, Shami, Broad and Anderson in that time - and conditions, but it’s mainly a lack of experience. The opposition in the last two years know they need just spend the majority of their time analysing, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Elgar. Those three have each scored over 700 runs for South Africa in the last two years. The next best is Aiden Markram, with an aggregate of 367 runs in 14 innings in that period.

It’s been the same in this current series with Elgar and Du Plessis the top two run scorers. They understand their roles as two of the most senior players, but there is an onus on the others to provide better support when times are tough. Van der Dussen as well as he played for his 67, had a momentary lapse in concentration at a crucial time, just eight balls after Elgar’s dismissal. Thereafter it was a procession.

No one else could stay in against disciplined Sri Lankan bowling particularly from Vishwa Fernando, who finished the innings with his maiden Test match ‘five-for.’

This is a Proteas team that is in transition. In the last two years the selectors have given eleven different players the chance to make Test debuts. There’s been little stability, little chance to learn from errors, and so mistakes - and batting collapses - have repeated themselves.

These players will be given a chance to atone, but the Proteas can ill-afford for these kinds of collapses to continue, Test matches cannot be won that way.

SCORECARD

Sri Lanka first innings 157 all out

South Africa first innings 302 all out

Sri Lanka second innings 150/4 (Karunarathne 91*, Thirimanne 31; Ngidi 3/26, Nortje 1/41)

Sri Lanka lead by 5 runs and have six wickets in hand. Day 3 starts at 10am on Tuesday.

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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