Lunch South Africa 86 for 6 (du Plessis 22*, Bavuma 17, Perera 3-28) trail Sri Lanka 287 by 201 runs
The ghosts of India 2015 returned to haunt a South African line-up that crumbled to 51 for 6 on the second morning in Galle. Captain Faf du Plessis, celebrating his 34th birthday, and Vernon Philander saved South Africa from their lowest total since readmission – 79 – but are still staring at a significant deficit.
Sri Lanka’s trio of spinners – Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan had South Africa in a spin – so much so that the sole seamer, stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal, made his first appearance in the 37th over, on the stroke of lunch. And Sri Lanka could have had the visitors even further on the back foot. Sri Lanka missed at least three chances to have decisions go their way, which may have resulted in them batting again by now.
Herath could have had a wicket as early as the third ball, when he hit nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj on the back pad. It looked high on first sighting but replays showed Sri Lanka would have been successful in getting the lbw had they reviewed. Maharaj only lasted until Herath’s next over, when an arm-ball beat his inside-edge.
Dean Elgar was next to go when he played across a Dilruwan Perera delivery that took the outside edge to offer first slip a catch.
Still, South Africa may not have been entirely in panic mode, with Hashim Amla, their best player of spin, and Temba Bavuma, whose composure has put him in line to take on the retired AB de Villiers’ role, together. Bavuma was confident enough to pull off two sweeps of a Herath over, both of them resulting in boundaries to backward-square leg, while Amla took on Dilruwan, dancing down the track to hit the ball over his head.
Their 27-run partnership showed promise before Amla flicked a flatter Dilruwan ball to short leg and Sri Lanka reviewed after umpire Paul Reiffel decided it was not out. Ultra Edge showed a spike as the ball passed the glove to end Amla’s innings and extend his lean run. Amla has not crossed fifty in six innings, since the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth.
Bavuma may have been gone the next ball, when Herath appealed for a catch at slip and Sri Lanka reviewed but replays showed it had come off the pad. Bavuma may also have been gone the ball after that, when Herath found his back pad but Sri Lanka chose not to review. The ball would have hit leg stump. Bavuma was gone 12 balls later, when he swept again, against Sandakan, and dragged the ball onto his stumps.
South Africa were 48 for 5, having lost four wickets in the first hour. Things got worse when Quinton de Kock was bowled by Dilruwan and du Plessis was left with the tail. But Vernon Philander showed the patience the top order lacked and defended solidly, while du Plessis tried to play a more positive role in also searching for runs.
Sri Lanka could have seen the back of Philander in the 32nd over, when he was on 5. He pushed forward to defend a Herath delivery, which hit pad first, and Sri Lanka did not review. Replays showed the ball would have hit the middle of middle stump. Sri Lanka could have seen the back of Philander again when he was given out lbw to Herath two overs later, but Philander reviewed Reiffel’s decision and replays showed the impact was outside off. So Sri Lanka only saw the back of Philander when he walked to lunch, having had a small victory when he drove Herath through the covers for his only boundary. But for South Africa, there is much more to do.