Quinton de Kock bats on the first day of the second Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, February 21 2019. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES
Quinton de Kock bats on the first day of the second Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, February 21 2019. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES

Sri Lanka took a tentative step towards making history by producing an inspired performance with the ball on day one of the second Test against SA at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

Seamers Vishwa Fernando and Kasin Rajitha each took three wickets as SA laboured to 222 in their first innings.

At the close, Sri Lanka, who are looking to become the first sub-continent side to win a series in SA, had nervously progressed to 60/3 with Lahiru Thirimanne (25) and Kusan Rajitha (0) not out overnight.

Proteas wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock made an impressive, counter-attacking 86 off only 87 balls and opener Aiden Markram added 60.

But for the remainder of the SA top and middle order, it was another disappointing day at the office.

It must be said the Proteas did fight back with the ball to remove the three Lankan batsmen and will no doubt hit the ground running on day two. And as the old saying goes, don’t judge until both sides have batted.

However, the Proteas’ effort with the bat will have disappointed their team management.

And this was not how the script was meant to read.

Popular opinion was that Durban was just one of those instances that come around just once in a while. It was where one man would play his socks off  and produce the innings of his life.

It was believed the likely scenario would see SA pull themselves together in Port Elizabeth and respond with the kind of dominance that saw them clean-sweep Pakistan 3-0 earlier in the summer.

The pre-match talk from coach Ottis Gibson and skipper Faf du Plessis was that they had met as a squad and discussed making more runs in the first innings.

They were confident of turning the tables and decided to bat first after winning the toss on Thursday. Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne said he would have bowled had he called correctly.

It quickly became clear whose call was more justified when SA lost their first three wickets for only seven runs. Their batsmen were rushing for pads in the dressing room as they crashed to 15/3 in the first half hour of play.

Left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando was on the button from the start. He set up Dean Elgar, beautifully taking a series of deliveries away from him before slipping one back at the left-hander who drove down the wrong line and was bowled.

Hashim Amla was out to next ball, a perfect delivery that pitched and seamed through the defence of SA’s No3. And in the next over, Temba Bavuma was run out, also without scoring, by a direct hit from Rajitha, who would perform more heroics in the afternoon session.

SA went to lunch at 73/4  after Du Plessis was yorked for 25 by Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, only his second wicket in 60 Tests.

Markram was determined in his time at the crease and produced a valuable 60 before he was trapped in front by Rajitha, who then also accounted for debutant Wiaan Mulder (9) and Keshav Maharaj (0) to have the Proteas 157/7.

Kagiso Rabada stuck around with De Kock and the pair added a partnership of 59 for the eighth wicket. Spinner Dhananjaya produced the breakthrough bowling De Kock,  ending an entertaining innings.  

In the Lankans’ turn at the crease, Rabada removed Karunaratne for 17 and Duanne Olivier bowled Oshada Fernando for nought before also dismissing Kusal Mendis (16) shortly before the close.