Kagiso Rabada took two wickets in successive overs to send Sri Lanka plunging towards defeat on the third day of the second Test at Newlands on Wednesday (January 4).
Set a massive 507 to win, Sri Lanka were 130 for 4 at the close. South Africa had declared their second innings on 224 for 7 earlier in the afternoon.
Kaushal Silva and Dhananjaya de Silva defied the South African bowlers for more than an hour in a 41-run partnership before Rabada dismissed both batsmen in the space of seven balls.
While Silva was caught off his glove at short leg on 29, in the next over, de Silva (22) was struck low down on his front pad by a full toss from Rabada. Angelo Mathews, who was batting with him at the time, didn’t think it worth calling for a review. Replays then showed that the ball would have missed his leg stump.
Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal batted well during the last hour, putting on an unbeaten 61 for the fifth wicket.
But South Africa will expect to wrap up the game – and the three-match series – reasonably early on Thursday with Sri Lanka having only one recognised batsman to come, followed by a lengthy tail.
Rabada finished the day with 2 for 22, while Vernon Philander had 2 for 34.
Although Rabada picked up three wickets in the second innings in South Africa’s 206-run win in the first Test in Port Elizabeth, he admitted: “I didn’t feel good rhythm.” Newlands, though, was going better, he said. “I just bowled more and got better through bowling.”
With the ball 40 overs old, Rabada said the pitch was not giving undue assistance to the bowlers. “The ball’s a bit old now and getting a bit softer but there’s a bit of pace and bounce and the odd ball has the potential to misbehave. So we’ll plan our tactics now. We’re in a good position.”
The hosts’ innings was propped up by Dean Elgar, who hit a half-century to add to his first-innings hundred. Suranga Lakmal restored some pride for the tourists, taking 4 for 69 and ensuring South Africa did not bat with complete freedom as they sought to set up the declaration.
Elgar, who made 129 in the first innings, reached his fifty off 82 balls with seven fours, but was out soon afterwards, caught at slip off Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner.
Faced with an almost impossible task, Sri Lanka got off to a poor start when Philander bowled Dimuth Karunaratne for 6 in the sixth over of the innings with a ball that swung back between bat and pad as the left-hander attempted to drive.
Kusal Mendis made four before he was out to a poor shot for the second time in the match, driving at a ball from Philander, which was well outside his off stump, to be caught at third slip.
Silva said he expected the team’s young batsmen, some of whom have been dismissed with loose strokes, to gain from their experience in South Africa.
“They are still young. They’ve got a lot of time and hopefully they will learn from their mistakes. They’re not giving many loose balls and with their height they get the bounce. They also bowl accurately on a good length. You have to be very patient.”