An unbeaten 89-ball 58 from Kumar Sangakkara kept Sri Lanka on track for an impressive win as it reached 110 for 1 at stumps on day four against South Africa on Saturday (July 19).
Sangakkara, who scored his 49th half-century, shared an unbeaten 96-run stand for the second wicket with Kaushal Silva (37) after Dale Steyn, the right-arm pacer, dismissed Upul Tharanga, the opener, for 14. Sri Lanka still need 260 runs to pull off a win.
Sri Lanka had been forced on the back foot after it was bowled out for 292 to concede a huge 163-run lead in the first innings. But the declaration from Hashim Amla with South Africa at 206 for 6 in its second innings, changed the picture.
Although no team has ever scored more than 300 runs in the final innings at Galle, Sangakkara made the target of 370 appear within reach. He has so far hit seven fours and a six in his 89-ball knock.
Sangakkara held one end up and kept the runs flowing, dispatching a full toss from Imran Tahir, the legspinner, over the mid-wicket fence for a huge six. He completed his half-century in style, sweeping Tahir through mid-wicket for a four.
Silva also knocked off some easy runs, smacking JP Duminy for two consecutive boundaries. Vernon Philander, who was fined 75% of his match fee after being accused of ball tampering, bowled six wicketless overs for 13 runs.
Earlier, AB de Villiers scored a 58-ball 51 and shared an important 62-run stand with Quinton de Kock (36) to set up South Africa’s second innings. Sri Lanka’s spinners exploited the conditions well, making the most of a dry and dusty pitch to account for all six wickets that fell.
Dilruwan Perera, the offspinner, led the pack with an impressive 4 for 79, while Rangana Herath claimed 2 for 84 with his left-arm spin.
Perera struck early after lunch, claiming the big wicket of Amla when Amla mistimed his flick and lobbed the ball to a diving Tharanga. Amla scored 22 to go with his 11 in the first innings in what is his first game as South Africa’s Test captain.
Faf du Plessis (37) then fell to a turner from Herath that crashed on to his stumps. De Villiers took charge after that, but Perera rattled his stumps shortly before the break. Perera struck again with what turned out to be the final ball before the break when de Kock lobbed an easy return catch to the bowler.
In the morning session, South Africa started cautiously against a bowling attack that relied heavily on spin in the absence of Shaminda Eranga, the injured seamer. Dean Elgar, the first innings centurion, was the first to fall as he tried to go for an ambitious drive off Herath only to be caught behind. Alviro Petersen (32), Elgar’s opening partner, was given caught behind off Perera but the batsman asked for a review. Television replays proved inconclusive and the on-field umpire’s decision was upheld.