South African batsmen dominate against wayward Sri Lankans

Charlie Austin

November 9, 2002

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All-rounder Jacques Kallis followed his bowling heroics on day one with an equally accomplished batting performance on day two, steering South Africa into a commanding position against Sri Lanka in the opening Castle Lager/MTN Test at Wanderers on Saturday.

Sri Lanka's bowlers had fought back during the afternoon after a woeful morning performance, claiming five wickets for 47 runs either side of lunch, but Kallis then wrestled back the initiative with an unbeaten five hour 75.

Adding 68 runs with Mark Boucher (38), 80 with skipper Shaun Pollock (38) and then 49 with Andrew Hall (31*), Kallis helped the home side overhaul Sri Lanka's first innings total of 192 and build a healthy 186 run lead by the close of play.

Kallis's painstaking innings means that the right-hander has not been dismissed in a Test match for 903 minutes, a run that stretches back eight months and includes scores of 61* against Australia, 75* and 139* against Bangladesh in addition to today's effort.

Sri Lanka had the started the day desperate to make early inroads but captain Sanath Jayasuriya was left frustrated as his bowlers - particularly Dilhara Fernando and Ruchira Fernando - bowled waywardly, wasting a rare opportunity to bowl on a well-grassed pitch offering the quick bowlers seam movement.

Not only did the bowlers fail to put the ball in the right areas but they conceded a staggering 62 sundries, including an unacceptable 31 no balls, that left them within touching distance of the 71 world record sundries conceded by West Indies against Pakistan at Georgetown in 1987-88.

Openers Graeme Smith and Gary Kirsten took full toll with a 133 run stand in just 30.2 overs. Smith was particularly aggressive - even against off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan whom he hit out of the attack with three boundaries in an over - scoring 73 from 92 balls, his second Test fifty.

Eventually, Jayasuriya threw the ball to his inexperienced fourth seamer, Hasantha Fernando, in exasperation. The move brought instantaneous success as the medium pacer conjured up a wicket with his second ball in Test cricket as Smith edged to first slip.

The wicket brought Martin van Jaarsveld (3) to the crease, who was gifted a surprise chance to state his credentials after Herschelle Gibbs pulled out of the Test minutes before the two captains tossed yesterday. But there was no fairytale for van Jaarsveld as a well-directed inswinger that knocked back his middle stuck.

After lunch, Sri Lanka continued their fight back as South Africa lost three wickets in the space of 11 balls: Hasantha Fernando ended Kirsten's three hour resistance when the left-hander skewed a catch into the gully, Ashwell Prince (3) miscued a hook to be caught at backward square and Neil Mckenzie was trapped lbw first ball by a Chaminda Vaas inswinger.

South Africa were 180 for five and Sri Lanka had pulled themselves right back into the game. However, Sri Lanka, not then helped by the enforced removal of Perera from the attack after three warnings for running on the pitch, struggled to make further inroads as Kallis ground on remorselessly.

Muttiah Muralitharan eventually snared Boucher down the leg-side on the stroke of tea but the off-spinner was generally played well and with Dilhara Fernando continue to hand out sundries, South Africa's long batting order frustrated the Sri Lankans till the close.

Shaun Pollock was delighted with his side's performance: "It was a really pleasing day after a flutter in the middle. The depth in our middle order came through again. We have got to be happy with the way we countered Murali. For him to pick up only one for 82 is a feather in our cap."

Ominously for Sri Lanka he wants his batsmen to carry on tomorrow and a forlorn Jayasuriya admitted afterwards that his batsmen needed to do something special in the second innings.

"This was a very disappointing day for us after reducing South Africa to 180 for five," said Jayasuriya. "Unlike South Africa we didn't put the ball in the right areas. To lose Ruchira from the attack and have Dili concede so many extras was frustrating."

"Tomorrow we have to knock them over very quickly and then the batsmen have to occupy the crease for a long time. We need to be positive bit the top five have got to make big scores - we cannot rely on the lower order."

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Charlie Austin Sri Lanka editor When Charlie Austin left for Sri Lanka after graduating from Sussex University, he was a planning a winter's cricket in the tropics and a six-month stint with an environmental NGO. His mother's worst fears were soon realised when it became clear that he had fallen in love with the island. Six months have now become eight years and Colombo has become his home. He joined Cricinfo in February 2000 and now heads operations in Sri Lanka, responsible for both sales and editorial. He is also the director of a UK-based travel company called Red Dot Tours, and is currently ghosting Muttiah Muralitharan's autobiography.
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