Bowlers help South Africa stage late fightback

After surprising the hosts in the first Test, Sri Lanka made a positive start to the second Test as well by bowling South Africa out for 222 before slightly losing their advantage towards the end of the day’s play. The visitors lost three wickets in the final session before stumps, still trailing South Africa by 162 runs.

Just as Sri Lanka’s bowlers were on top of South Africa’s batsmen for majority of their innings, South Africa’s bowlers returned the favour. The only difference being Sri Lanka’s batsmen found ways to negate their attack and keep them at bay, led by Lahiru Thirimanne’s unbeaten 25, but only for a while as Dale Steyn and Kagiso Raba kept things tight.

Rabada struck early in the session, ekeing the outside edge off skipper Dimuth Karunaratne. Quinton de Kock took a sharp catch with the ball dipping on him. Rabada thought he had Oshada Fernando soon after for a similar dismissal, but the umpire thought otherwise. South Africa went in for a review, only for it to be a terrible decision with daylight between bat and ball.

Fernando, however, fell without scoring after edging Olivier back onto his stumps. The ball came angling in with the batsman trying to defend. Olivier then was rewarded for some beautiful, consistent bowling, persisting with the same lines while altering his lengths forcing Kusal Mendis to edge to the ‘keeper as Sri Lanka were dealt with a big blow just on the brink of stumps.

After a brief fightback earlier from South Africa, led by half-centuries from Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock, Sri Lanka snatched back control in the second session with three wickets with runs coming at over four an over. De Kock fell after Tea, scoring 86 off 87 to Dhananjaya de Silva. With him single-handedly keeping South Africa afloat, his wicket brought about the last two wickets to fall for not too much after.

De Kock attacked from the onset. He was dropped on 37 by Kusal Mendis in the slips, but was unperturbed, picking the quick singles, rotating the strike and bisecting the field to pick up as many as 12 boundaries. He added 59 runs with Rabada for the eighth wicket,with the latter dropped twice, to add vital runs.

After lunch, it was Kasun Rajitha who dented South Africa’s hopes of a successful revival after Markram and de Kock negated the Lankan bowlers in the first hour of the second session. The South African pair rotated the strike, got the boundaries, and before Sri Lanka could realise, had brought up a fifty-run stand in quicktime off just 54 balls. Markram, who had looked at extreme ease in the middle, reached his half-century, but was trapped leg before soon after (for 60) by Rajitha, putting an end to a rapid 57-run association.

Debutant Wiaan Mulder got off the mark with a boundary, and struck another, before Rajitha struck him plumb in front. Keshav Maharaj then edged to the keeper as South Africa lost three in a heap, undoing all the good they did initially, where they had scored at over five runs an over. Rajitha got the ball to seam a bit in the latter half of the session, while Suranga Lakmal kept things tight too, by changing his angles often. He, however, remained wicketless, coming very close to getting de Kock, but in vain as the catch was put down.

After having swung it in Durban, Vishwa Fernando was swinging it in Port Elizabeth. His two-wicket burst early on set South Africa back in the morning session after they were reduced to 15 for 3. The hosts’ recovery was led by skipper Faf du Plessis and Markram, who added 58 to steady the innings. However, du Plessis departed on the last ball before the session break as Sri Lanka capped off a brilliant session to send the hosts to lunch on 73 for 4.

Two wickets in two balls, followed by the run-out of Temba Bavuma in the next over, had them reeling after opting to bat. Fernando set Dean Elgar up beautifully by persisting with the line outside off for most parts, before sending in one that jagged back in sharply to rattle the stumps, as his lean run continued.

Amla had one swing back late, which took the inside edge off his bat to crash into the stumps, departing for a first-ball duck. Fernando missed out on the hat-trick as the ball just went over the stumps, swinging back into Bavuma. But Sri Lanka got their man four balls later as he set off for a run with no call from striker, Markram. He was caught well short at the non-striker’s end after a direct hit from Rajitha.

Du Plessis and Markram thereafter, added 58 runs patiently to revive the innings. Sri Lanka kept things tight, but couldn’t create anymore chances in the session, until the last over, when the Sri Lankan skipper brought himself on for one over. Dimuth Karunaratne sent one in on yorker length that slid under du Plessis’s bat to knock over the stumps much to the delight of the Sri Lankan skipper, and dismay of his counterpart.

Brief scores: South Africa 222 (Aiden Markram 60, Quinton de Kock 86; Vishwa Fernando 3-62, Kasun Rajitha 3-67) lead Sri Lanka 60/3 (Lahiru Thirimanne 25*; Duanne Olivier 2-25) by 162 runs

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