Dean Elgar scored a fine century to hand South Africa the initiative on the opening day of the first Test at the Galle International Stadium, but Sri Lanka’s bowlers fought back admirably to restrict it to 268 for 5 by stumps on Wednesday (July 16).
After Hashim Amla opted to bat in his first Test as captain, Elgar scored a 187-ball 103, including 11 boundaries and three sixes, before he was caught behind off Suranga Lakmal.
Elgar first put on a quick 70 for the opening wicket with Alviro Petersen – their partnership came off 101 balls – as South Africa got off to a decent start. Petersen then fell to Dilruwan Perera’s off-spin, trapped leg before for 34, but that brought Faf du Plessis into the middle and the duo consolidated on the good start with a second-wicket partnership worth 120.
Elgar, playing his 10th Test for South Africa, reached his century in style, coming down the ground and smacking Perera for a six.
However, with Elgar’s dismissal, Sri Lanka wrestled back control, claiming four wickets for 71 runs.
Amla had a forgettable outing. He made 11 off 36 balls before Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, had him caught by Perera at extra cover.
South Africa then needed a big innings from AB de Villiers, its in-form batsman, but he too couldn’t make a substantial contribution, falling just before stumps. After striking four boundaries for his 21, de Villiers was castled by a full delivery from Lakmal, as Sri Lanka wrested the advantage.
Sri Lanka suffered a setback when it lost Shaminda Eranga, the right-arm medium pacer, to an injury. Eranga split the webbing on his bowling arm in the field and had to be taken off the attack.
However, the rest of the bowlers more than made up for his absence, as Sri Lanka ended the opening day better than it started it.
Lakmal was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with impressive figures of 2 for 29 in 16 overs. Perera’s 27 overs fetched him 2 for 100, while Herath returned figures of 1 for 95 in 37 overs.