Sunday, 28 November 2021

Openers extend SA advantage after Philander five-for

PORT ELIZABETH: Bad light and impending rain forced an early lunch on day three after South Africa took control of the first Test at St George’s Park. It only took them 7.5 overs to wrap up Sri Lanka’s lower order and gain an 81-run first-innings lead, which their openers stretched to 120 before the umpires called the players off the field half an hour from the scheduled lunch break. Vernon Philander took two of the last three Sri Lankan wickets to finish with figures of 5 for 45, while Kyle Abbott broke a frustrating last-wicket stand between Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Pradeep to end with 3 for 63. Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook then saw out the first 11 overs of South Africa’s second innings without too much discomfort as they went to lunch 39 for no loss. There was still movement available to the seamers, in the air and off the deck, and both openers sent edges streaking through gaps in the slip cordon in the first four overs. But they gradually grew in confidence, and Elgar in particular began asserting himself. By lunch he had hit three fours, including a muscular swat over midwicket when Suranga Lakmal dropped marginally short and a crisply timed back-foot drive down the ground off Angelo Mathews.

Philander struck with the very first ball of the day, shaping it away from the fourth-stump channel to induce a poke and an edge from Dhananjaya de Silva, who, on 43 overnight, had held Sri Lanka’s hopes of narrowing South Africa’s lead to manageable proportions. Five balls later, Suranga Lakmal realised he wasn’t quite to the pitch of a fullish ball to drive, checked his shot, and popped a low catch to mid-on, giving Philander his 11th five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Philander and Abbott beat the edges of Chameera and Pradeep frequently, but Sri Lanka’s Nos. 9 and 11 managed to stretch their total by 20 runs along the way. There were a couple of audacious shots as well – Pradeep punched Abbott off the back foot to the point boundary, and Chameera hit Philander for a straight-bat scoop over mid-on. Eventually, having just got past the 50-ball mark, Chameera jabbed at an away-swinger from Abbott and nicked to first slip.

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