Former captain Faf du Plessis ground a depleted Sri Lankan bowling attack to the dust with a masterly 199 as South Africa took an iron grip of the first Test against Sri Lanka on massive 621 in reply to the visitors 396 for a 225-run first innings lead before reducing them to 65 for 2 and trailing by 160 runs on the third day of the ICC Test Championship match at Centurion.
Sri Lanka precipitated in the second innings losing skipper Dimuth Karunaratne bowled by Ngidi for 6 in the last ball of the third over with the score 10, and Kusal Mendis for a duck also to Ngidi who had him caught by van der Dussen and at 22 for 2 the Lankan camp was staring at certain doom before Kusal Janith Perera and Dinesh Chandimal prevented any further damage adding 43 runs for the third wicket. Perera was on 33 off 39 hitting 6 boundaries and Chandimal on 21 off 21 with 3 boundaries. Beset by the injury sidelining of star batsman Dhananjaya de Silva, Sri Lanka’s hopes of saving the match will largely depend on Perera and Chandimal as the visitors face the daunting task of battling a decisive fourth and fifth day with the South Africans poised for the kill.
That the hosts changed the course of the match by totally overhauling what was a compatible 396-run Sri Lankan first innings underlined the threadbare bowling attack of the opposition underlined by injury and fitness problems as paceman Lahiru Kumara too became a third casualty after Dhananjaya de Silva and Kasun Rajitha to leave the field after the first delivery of his 22nd over. It was an apparent reflection of the under preparedness of the Lankan outfit down the line due to the limitations triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The overnight fifth-wicket pair of du Plessis and Temba Bavuma drove home to the hilt the Proteas balance wresting onslaught as they went on to add a further 82 runs extending their partnership to 179 runs when Bavuma exited with the batsman walking off believing he had nicked Dasun Shanaka to the wicket-keeper, but replays proved otherwise. Faf du Plessis’ marathon innings consuming 276 balls highlighted by 24 boundaries ended when he was seventh out caught by Dimuth Karunaratne off Wanindu Hasaranga.with the total on 609 having added a further 77 for the sixth wicket with Wiaan Mulder who made 36 off 63 (4×4, 1×6), and 133 for the seventh wicket with Keshav Maharaj who made 73 off 106 strking 6 boundaries and 2 sixes. The last three wickets falling for the addition of 12 runs was little consolation for the Sri Lankans as Vishwa Fernando claimed the next two wickets for the addition of 2 runs -Anrich Nortje caught behind by Dickwella for a duck and Hasaranga trapped Lutho Sipamla also for a duck with Fernando ending the South African innings when he had Maharaj caught by Hasaranga.
It was a fiery debut baptism for the 23-year old leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, who in the circumstances having to carry the brunt of the depleted Lankan bowling attack, ended the day with a 4-wicket haul for 171 off a marathon 45 overs. Vishwa Fernando collected 3 wickets for 129.
SRI LANKA 396 All out (96 Overs) RR: 4.12,
And 65/2 (12 Overs) RR: 5.41
(Kusal Janith Perera n.o. 33, Dinesh Chandimal n.o. 21)
SOUTH AFRICA O/N 317/4, 621 All out. (142.1 Overs) RR: 4.37
(Faf du Plessis 199, Dean Elgar 95, Keshav Maharaj 73, Temba Bavuma 71, Aiden Markram 68, Wiaan Mulder 36,Quinton de Kock 18, Rassie van der Dussen 15, Wanindu Hasaranga 4/171, Vishwa Fernando 3/129, Dasun Shanaka 2/98, Lahiru Kumara 1/103)