De Silva firm but South Africa pacers reign

Sri Lanka batsman Dimuth Karunaratne plays a shot during the second day of the first Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka on December 27, 2016 at the Port Elizabeth cricket ground in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Dhananjaya de Silva’s dogged innings kept Sri Lanka afloat on the second day of the first Test against South Africa at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday (December 27).

De Silva hit 43 not out as Sri Lanka managed 181 for 7 – trailing South Africa’s first-innings total by 105 runs – before bad light brought an end to the day’s play

Reducing Sri Lanka to 22 for 3, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott, the South Africa pacemen, put the visiting batsmen under the pump early on in seam-friendly conditions. Angelo Mathews helped the side avoid a collapse with a steady 39 before de Silva strode out at No. 7 and played a gritty innings, with good support from Dinesh Chandimal (28) and Rangana Herath (24).

While Philander and Abbott both bowled well, taking 3 for 35 and 2 for 49 respectively, there was room for improvement. Kagiso Rabada couldn’t find his rhythm and gave away 63 runs in 13 overs, though he did snare the big wicket of Mathews, caught low at third slip by Dean Elgar.

Sri Lanka was in a spot of bother, but de Silva, playing in only his sixth Test, showcased the temperament that has fetched him centuries against Australia and Zimbabwe. After surviving a caught-and-bowled chance to Keshav Maharaj when he was on 27, he made the most of his initial luck, batting 69 balls and hitting five fours.

Sri Lanka started the day well, Suranga Lakmal picking up his first five-wicket haul. He finished with 5 for 63 as South Africa lost its last four wickets for 19 runs. Lakmal’s previous best in Tests was 4 for 78 against Pakistan in Dubai in January 2014.

South Africa had resumed at 267 for 6, but Sri Lanka prised out a wicket early with Philander caught at deep square-leg when he top-edged a pull off Nuwan Pradeep in the fifth over of the morning. Maharaj then edged an awayswinger to Dinesh Chandimal, the wicketkeeper, to give Lakmal his fifth scalp and Abbott was run out after some confusion with Quinton de Kock moments later. De Kock was last man out for 37, playing across the line of a yorker from Pradeep.

But the tables turned quite quickly after that. Philander and Abbott tore through Sri Lanka’s batting order, getting decent movement through the air and off the pitch as three wickets fell in the first eight overs. Sri Lanka didn’t roll over though; a 39-run stand between Mathews and Kaushal Silva kept the bowlers at bay for some time.

Silva didn’t make a big score, but showed that his technique was up to scratch, facing 108 balls for 16 before he was lbw to Philander, who produced a ball that cut back after a series of deliveries that left the batsman.

Mathews lasted 69 balls, but he fought valiantly, too, after being struck on his right forearm by a rising delivery from Philanders and requiring treatment for the same. He perished, pushing at a ball from Rabada towards third slip.