Sri Lanka hanging on after action packed day of Test cricket at the Wanderers

04 January 2021 - 18:07 By Liam Del Carme
Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma celebrate the dismissal of Kusal Perera.
Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma celebrate the dismissal of Kusal Perera.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Sri Lanka were hanging on grimly at stumps on the second day of the second Test but there is an air of inevitability about their destiny in this clash.

They finished the day on 150/4 in their second innings‚ only five runs ahead of South Africa with three more days set aside for this encounter.

In fact‚ the manner in which the bottom fell out of the South African first innings post lunch meant the game advanced far quicker than most anticipated.

That gave rise to the possibility South Africa might wrap the Test inside two days and the two-Test series inside six.

They had not brought such brevity to proceedings since they vanquished Zimbabwe in a pink ball Test in Port Elizabeth in late 2017.

Sri Lanka‚ however‚ batted with far more resolve than they did in the first innings.

Despite losing the potentially destructive and in-form Kusal Perera early on‚ captain Dimuth Karunaratne (91 not out) and Lahiru Thirimanne (31) steered the team to tea and even calmer waters beyond.

The first time their flow was disturbed was when a Wiaan Mulder delivery that thudded into the former's left thumb.

Soon after a Karunaratne on-drive off Lutho Sipamla took him to his 25th half century‚ this time off 73 deliveries.

The 85-run second wicket partnership came to an end when Thirimanne departed the scene for 31 off 57 balls‚ he too falling to a faint leg side glance to the keeper off Lungi Ngidi.

Rassie van der Dussen was strangled in similar fashion earlier in the day.

Remarkably‚ Kusal Mendis‚ a man short of a run was dismissed in the same way in Ngidi's next over‚ only this time De Kock had to throw himself horizontally to collect the ball.

Mendis‚ pondering his plight‚ stood at the crease in disbelief‚ partly because he too fell in that manner‚ but mostly because he had just recorded his third successive duck in the series.

At the conclusion of the series he may want to ask South African opener Dean Elgar how to snap out of this sequence.

Bagging a pair on Test debut against Australia back in 2012‚ Elgar didn't exactly take to Test cricket like a duck to water.

A similar fate befell Graham Gooch in 1975‚ but the former England captain rose from those ashes and will remind that reputations can only be forged‚ once a pair is grown.

The nuggetty South African opener has since carved out a Test career built on grit and bucket loads of determination.

He knuckles down as much as he gets wrapped on it.

Elgar‚ earlier in the day‚ completed his 13th Test century before he fell for 127‚ but not before he helped put South Africa in the pound seats.

With a 145-run first innings lead South Africa could apply the squeeze but they didn't quite unlock all the wicket taking properties the new ball has to offer.

However‚ once they snared Thirimanne's wicket‚ Mendis and then Minod Bhanuka soon followed.

The latter fell to a splendid diving effort from Keshav Maharaj who made a lot of ground before throwing himself towards the ball.

All the while though Karunaratne held firm and stood between his side and defeat.

His effort‚ as well as that of Vishwa Fernando with the ball earlier in the day‚ has kept the Sri Lankan ship afloat.

Following the morning drinks break Fernando bowled with greater guile and control from the Golf Course End.

It helped bag him his first 'fifer' in Test cricket.

Fernando bellowed loudly out of relief perhaps as much as celebration but ultimately not enough of his teammates have shown similar grunt in this series.