Dean Elgar compiled his 16th Test half-century and will have every opportunity Monday morning to reach his century.
JOHANNESBURG – Wiaan Mulder suppressed the soul but it was Anrich Nortjé who ripped the heart out of the Sri Lankans as the Proteas took firm control of the second Test at the Wanderers on Sunday.
Even so, it took the South African bowling attack a moment or two to warm up to the cool conditions at the Bullring, the trio of Nortjé, Lutho Sipamla and Lungi Ngidi failing to make any inroads into the islanders batting for the first nine overs. And it was Nortjé – inconsistent as he was in the first hour – who took the first wicket of a watchful Dimuth Karunarathne (2 off 31) in the 10th over.
The expected onslaught did not come as planned afterwards, as the Proteas continued to go through the motions, missing their line and length far too often to pose any consistent threat. Enter Mulder in the 18th over and a clutch of wickets followed that placed the impetus firmly in the way of the South Africans.
The 22-year-old accounted for Kusal Perera (60), Kusal Mendis (0) and Lahiru Thirimanne (17) before the lunch-time break, and Nortjé completed the morning session rout dispatching Minod Bhanuka (5) to leave the Sri Lankans reeling on 84/5.
Whatever mojo Mulder had brought to his first spell, trickled its way into the veins of Nortjé as they returned for the second session. And while it was now Mulder who had lost sight of his areas, Nortjé took up the torch of responsibility. In quick order he ran through Niroshan Dickwella (7), Dusan Shanaka (4), Dushmanta Chameera (22) and Asitha Fernando (4) to end the Sri Lankan innings with career-best figures of 6/56.
Sipamla (1/27) picked up the only other remaining wicket, that of Wanindu Hasaranga (29), to limit the islanders to 157 all out. Thereafter, Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram guided the Proteas to tea 22 runs to the good and without incident. In that brief period, Elgar also became the 10th South African to compile 4,000 Test runs.
Despite their batting collapse, the Sri Lankans returned after tea with a spring in their step, business in their eye, and a clear plan to hit their areas. It worked a treat, Asitha capturing the much-valued wicket of Aiden Markram, who nibbled at the ball with a nothing shot and edged to Mendis to walk off cheaply for five runs.
Both Fernandos, Shanaka and to a lesser extent Chameera worked tirelessly to limit the scoring opportunities of Elgar and the newly arrived Rassie van der Dussen, who took 26 balls to get off the mark.
The Sri Lankan pacemen, nevertheless, and in spite of a good spell of bowling will feel slightly aggrieved that they could not capitalise on a disciplined period that lasted into the last hour of the day. In the meantime, Elgar managed the pressure to compile his 16th Test half-century, closing out the day with 92 runs and will have every opportunity Monday morning to reach his century.
Together with Van der Dussen (40 not out), the duo will resume on 148/1, trailing the Sri Lankans by nine runs.
Sri Lanka 157 all out (Perera 60; Nortje 6/56, Mulder 3/25)
South Africa 148/1 (Elgar 92*, Van der Dussen 40*; A Fernando 1/30)