DURBAN: Dale Steyn claimed four wickets to propel South Africa into a dominant position on day two of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Durban.
The veteran fast bowler took the wickets of top-order batsmen Lahiru Thirimanne and Oshada Fernando as well as the dangerous Kusal Perera, who scored a belligerent half century that comprised seven fours and a six and came off just 60 balls. After bowling out Sri Lanka for 191, headlined by Steyn but a courtesy of a fine all-round bowling display, the hosts ended day two with a lead of 170 runs with six second-innings wickets intact, which, due to the low-scoring nature of the game thus far, represents a commanding position.
After a moderate first innings score of 235 on day one, made respectable by a 94-ball 80 by Quinton de Kock, South Africa’s speedsters tipped the scales back in the home side’s favour during the morning session on day two at Newlands. The first hour of the day belonged to the hosts as Steyn trapped Fernando lbw, which would have been overturned if the debutant had opted to review, while Dimuth Karunaratne did engage the third umpire after a Vernon Philander delivery struck his pads, but replays verified the on-field umpire’s call.
Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier also picked up a scalp in the morning session, while Vernon Philander bagged a brace. Kusal Mendis was undone by Philander’s (2/32) trademark channel just outside off, nicking to Faf du Plessis, who accepted his 50th catch in Tests, while Niroshan Dickwella top-edged Olivier to Steyn at third man. A mini-revival by Kusal Perera (51 from 63 balls) and Dhananjaya de Silva (23) ensued, who both batted with intent during a 43-run sixth-wicket partnership, before the latter holed out off Rabada on the edge of tea.
While he wasn’t as quick as Rabada, who nudged towards the 150kph-mark on occasion, Steyn (4-48) bowled menacingly throughout, enticing Suranga Lakmal and Perera to gift simple chances to the ring field before peppering Sri Lanka’s tail with a series of lethal bouncers. The veteran was unfortunate to miss out on a five-for after Dean Elgar squandered a fairly simple chance moving to his right at gully.
With Sri Lanka 152/8, it looked like South Africa could secure an unassailable lead, but Kasun Rajitha and debutant Lasith Embuldeniya scrapped hard to keep their opponents within reach. Both copped multiple blows and neither looked entirely comfortable, but the 32 runs they added were vital. Their stubborn resistance was terminated when the latter was removed by the electric reflexes of Aiden Markram at short leg before Rabada dismissed Embuldeniya to bowl out Sri Lanka for 191.
As South Africa made their way to 70/1 – Markram the casualty for an aggressive 28 courtesy of a smart catch by Mendis in the cordon – the game was drifting away. But Embuldeniya struck twice, pinning Temba Bavuma in front and grabbing a sharp return chance off Dean Elgar, either side of Vishwa Fernando enticing Hashim Amla to cut to gully, as South Africa were 95/4 with a lead of 139. Captain Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock both made starts as South Africa closed proceedings on 126/4, largely satisfied with their day’s work.