By the time South Africa had their wits about them, Sri Lanka had won the toss, chosen to bowl and reduced their hosts to 17/3
De Kock 80, Du Plessis 35
Round one: Sri Lanka.
The tourists may have had a tumultuous build-up to the first Test against South Africa, but they put all of that aside on an engaging first day at Kingsmead.
By the time South Africa had their wits about them, Sri Lanka had won the toss, chosen to bowl and reduced their hosts to 17/3.
Quinton de Kock, whose 80 got his team out of a hole, admitted that the two new men in the Sri Lankan arsenal had surprised them.
“We understood that Suranga Lakmal is a serious opening bowler, but the other two caught us off guard,” the southpaw confessed.
Vishwa Fernando was one of the unknown boys, and he was put in front of the media at stumps, on the back of his 4/62.
There is still something rather irresistible about a left-arm bowler with new ball in hand, and all South African resistance upfront crumbled.
Fernando expressed his delight through broken English and the help of some translation. No matter, because he was beautifully fluent with ball in hand. And that is the only place that matters.
He nicked off a static Dean Elgar, and should have had Hashim Amla leg-before. That would have left South Africa at 0/2, with visions of last winter in their heads once more.
Temba Bavuma (47) and skipper Faf du Plessis (35) started the rebuilding of the structure, before both were out in unfortunate circumstances.
“They were both jammy wickets, which you don’t expect in Test cricket,” De Kock swiped.
Du Plessis was caught down leg at the stroke of lunch, with South Africa ending a concerning first session 89/4.
Bavuma looked fluent and poised to cash in all his summer of promise, but he was astonishingly run out after Fernando deflected a full-blooded drive from De Kock onto the stumps.
Actually, the ball struck Fernando in his follow-through, and he had little to no time to do a thing about it.
Bavuma still scrambled hastily enough to force an extensive replay reel, but he was out by an inch.
It was terribly tough luck, and De Kock said he did apologise to his mate afterwards.
Batting with the lower-order, De Kock rolled up his sleeves and didn’t let the perilous position dull his natural flair.
He pounced on anything loose, and nudged South Africa past 200. Considering where they were inside the first half-hour, that was a decent fightback.
Keshav Maharaj, back in the team, chipped in with a pugnacious 29, showing his value goes beyond orthodox spin.
Bowled out for 235, South Africa needed something to take into day two. Lahiru Thirimanne, who had dropped a sitter in the outfield, provided the ray of sunshine, as he edged Dale Steyn behind without troubling the scorers.
The bad light stole a dozen overs, but a lot happened in the time that nature allowed.
The tourists will resume on 49/1, on a pitch that has something for everyone.
Seconds out, round two.