Hostile spells from Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn have got the Proteas in an unexpected lead for the underdogs as Sri Lanka fell 40 runs short of South Africa’s 361. The lead for South Africa could have been a lot more and they could have been in the driver’s seat by now but for a spirited eight wicket partnership of 117 between all rounders – Farveez Maharoof (56) and Chaminda Vaas (64). We have a match on with South Africa negotiating the second day’s play at 6/0 in the two overs required to face. The onus is now on the South African batsmen to show the determination to battle it out in the middle and get the runs on the board which should be tough for any team chasing in the fourth innings of a Test Match. The wicket is still a good one for the strokemakers with the ball coming on nicely to the bat and not much of a turn for the spinners.
Having bowled out South Africa for 361 on Day 1, Sri Lanka started off in a shaky manner losing Upul Tharanga and last match hero, Kumar Sangakkara within the first hour. Both the left handers were dismissed by Ntini with Tharanga (2) falling to a top edge in his attempted pull and Sangakkara’s (14) uppish flick was taken by Hashim Amla at short mid wicket. Sanath Jayasuriya and Skipper Mahela Jayawardene, fresh from his 374 did the repair job but Dale Steyn came back after an initial caning to induce a cut shot from Mahela Jayawardene (13) to find the outside edge. Tillakaratne Dilshan decided very late to leave a delivery from Ntini on its own and in the process got an inside edge onto his stumps. Even Jayasuriya’s resistance came to an end with the veteran falling three runs short of a half century as he was forced to edge an away going seaming delivery from Makhaya. The next pair of Chamara Kapugedera and Prasanna Jayawardene ensured that the homeside went to lunch with those five wickets down. Kapugedera had begun his innings in an aggressive note, hooking the third ball he faced from Ntini into the fine leg stands for a mighty six. We were in for an exciting fightback with some more fireworks expected from the teenage sensation Chamara Kapugedera.
Both Chamara Kapugedera and the wicket keeper Prasanna Jayawardene grabbed the opportunity to become heroes trying to pull their side out of desperate trouble. Kapugedera raced off to his second Test Match fifty in 64 balls and he got his second six off the innings through a handsome step down and inside out lofted drive off Nicky Boje. But the left arm spinner had the last laugh in his next over as Chamara Kapugedera (63) could not control his adrenalin flow and got cleaned up playing a predetermined slog sweep. Sri Lanka at this stage were 191 for 6 in the 44th over and they slipped down to 191 for 7 in the very next over with Dale Steyn producing a superb delivery that held its line to knock Prasanna’s stumps. Prasanna Jayawardene ended up with a busy 49-ball 42, which had six fours and a six coming from a pull shot off the hostile Makhaya Ntini. South Africa were in for a great chance of grabbing a big first innings lead, but their plans were spoilt by Chaminda Vaas and Farveez Maharoof who batted with lots of comfort as the ball got older and softer. The eight-wicket partnership was growing stronger and stronger and the two continued even after drinks of the final session. Vaas, who was the more aggressive of the two all rounders with the bat, registered his 11th Test Match fifty having faced 87 balls. It could have been a different story had Dilhara Fernando played instead of the all rounder Chaminda Vaas. Farveez Maharoof as well got to a half century, it was his 3rd in his career, and this one had taken quite some time, in 106 balls to be precise. It was only the second new ball that could rescue South Africa and Dale Steyn removed Maharoof and Vaas in the space of two overs and then Muralitharan, the last man wasting no time in going for the slog and getting caught at mid on. It was all red hot pace from Dale Steyn to remove the well set Maharoof and Vaas with Maharoof getting bowled to a quick and full delivery and Vaas gloving one uncomfortably in his pull to Boucher. Sri Lanka like South Africa got bowled inside the 90 overs, giving a lead of just 40 to the visitors. Dale Steyn finished with 5 for 82 in just over 13 overs, which is a good strike rate indeed, and Makhaya Ntini took 4 for 84 in his 21 overs.
From 86 for 5 to 321 all out, Sri Lanka have fought back incredibly well with their pride at stake. South Africa must be disappointed with their bowlers not doing the finishing job well enough, but they shouldn’t be thinking too much about it and concentrate on batting for atleast the whole of Day 3. South Africa are in a great position to level this 2-Tests Series 1-1 and Ashwell Prince and the other batsmen need to show the hunger for the big runs to give a stiff target for the Sri Lankans.