Dale Steyn was simply scintillating, picking up a five-wicket haul on the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka to put South Africa in the driver’s seat on Friday (July 18).
Steyn accumulated his 23rd five-for despite bowling on a dry and flat surface in Galle, finishing with figures of 5 for 50. At stumps, Sri Lanka was 283 for 9, still trailing by 172 with just one a wicket in hand.
Steyn started things off with the wicket of Kaushal Silva in the morning. Attempting a hook off Steyn’s bouncer, Silva sent it straight to Vernon Philander at long leg, who plucked it out of the air for a spectacular catch.
That brought Kumar Sangakkara to the crease. Heading into the game with seven consecutive 50-plus scores, Sangakkara looked assured and played confidently on both sides of the wicket. At the other end, Upul Tharanga, in his first Test in over six years, offered able support. Tharanga treated the spinners, JP Duminy and Imran Tahir, with disdain and the partnership looked set to flourish.
However, rain forced a break in play shortly before lunch, and on resumption, Sangakkara was bowled by Morne Morkel for 24. Mahela Jayawardene then became Steyn’s second wicket as Sri Lanka was reduced to 104 for 3.
All the while, Tharanga, continued in a composed manner against some quality fast bowling, reaching 83 in 155 balls. He looked set for his second Test century but had to depart after being stumped off Duminy’s part-time off-spin.
Angelo Mathews, the captain, was in next and wasn’t willing to give up so easily. Alongside Lahiru Thirimanne, he added 54 for the fifth wicket before Steyn struck once again, early in the final session, with Thirimanne (38) caught behind off an outswinger. Steyn then added the scalps of Dinesh Chandimal and Dilruwan Perera in consecutive overs as Sri Lanka was reduced to 201 for 7.
Rangana Herath joined Mathews in the middle, and the two added a valuable 71 for the eighth wicket. However, Mathews was deceived by Tahir and had to walk back for a 182-ball 89. Morkel then had Suranga Lakmal caught behind to cap a near-perfect day for South Africa.