Sri Lanka fought back admirably on the second morning of the third Test against SA on the back of probing spells by Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal.
While the latter was again unfortunate to have a catch dropped off his bowling‚ his diligence and accuracy allowed Sri Lanka to peg back the hosts to 398/8 by lunch after a bowler-friendly morning.
The former shrugged off his early-series tardiness and lethargy to deliver a compelling display of swing bowling.
He took 4/73‚ playing a crucial role in precipitating the 5/40 midsession collapse despite SA’s seemingly strong overnight position of 338/3.
The hosts were able to add only 60 runs in 24 overs‚ such was the excellence of the Sri Lankan bowling attack.
The Sri Lankans good use of conditions justified Faf du Plessis’s decision to bat first on Thursday despite the heavy skies.
The conditions — muggy — were ripe for swing bowling and the grass allowed the newish ball to kick off a length and misbehave.
The same pitch on which the Proteas rattled off 338/3 off their 90 first day overs suddenly took on a life of its own.
A harbinger of things to come was Angelo Mathews’s off-cutter that got rid of night-watchman Duanne Olivier (3)‚ even though third umpire Aleem Dar’s intervention was needed to overturn the initial not out decision.
Du Plessis (16) was in the wars during his uncomfortable 25-ball stay. He had a life on one when Kusal Mendis grassed a regulation catch at second slip off Lakmal while Du Plessis also copped a painful blow to the mid-riff off Lahiru Kumara.
His agony was ended when he was squared up by a wonderful Pradeep out-swinger‚ with Mendis’s hands not failing him this time.
Temba Bavuma (0) was undone by an even better out-swinger two balls later with Kaushal Silva doing the business in the slip cordon to leave SA at 364/6.
To say they were tottering would have been harsh, but Sri Lanka’s bowlers had prised open the door that had been firmly shut on the first day.
Hashim Amla (134) was Pradeep’s third victim of the morning when his outside edge was well taken by wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal while another peach of an out-swinger accounted for Vernon Philander (0).
Quinton de Kock (17) and Wayne Parnell (12) belligerently held out until the interval but the quicker Sri Lanka bowls out SA‚ the more time the hosts may have on the mottled surface with the favourable overhead conditions.