January 3, 2001

Cullinan leads run spree as SA ram home advantage

For the second day running South Africa clambered all over Sri Lanka, a masterly century from Daryll Cullinan standing out as the centrepiece of a dominant batting display as the second Castle Lager/MTN Test match continued to gallop along at Newlands.

Cullinan hit 112 as South Africa romped to 426 for six - the lead now being 331 - in an innings that might have been described as effortless had his 33-year-old legs not looked a little tired when he was run out in the middle session.

His form has been patchy this summer, but you could have bet your house on the fact that he was looking forward to playing at Newlands. On Tuesday evening he looked ominous and on Wednesday he carved out his fourth century in his last four Tests under the shadow of Table Mountain.

It was also his fifth century in ten Tests against Sri Lanka - thereby providing yet another rebuttal to those who claim he can't play spin - and his 12th overall. He doesn't know how much longer he can go on, but he wants to go to the West Indies this year and Wednesday's hundred will have booked him his seat.

Apart from his difficulties against Shane Warne, which he now readily acknowledges - "He was just too good for me" - Cullinan has been South Africa's outstanding strokeplayer since readmission (Gary Kirsten matches him for consistency and longevity) and the 11,000-odd at Newlands were given yet another treat.

But it was by no means the Daryll Cullinan Show as the Sri Lankan bowling took a pounding. Neil McKenzie supplied a gem of a cameo with his 47 after Jacques Kallis had been out to the second ball of the day, looking ever inch the equal of his senior partner as they added 101 for the fourth wicket.

As Cullinan noted, McKenzie is starting to gain the confidence to play his strokes, and this was never more evident than when he humped Muttiah Muralitharan for six and four into Cow Corner off successive balls.

And when McKenzie went, Mark Boucher hammered out a magnificent 92 before he contrived to hole out to a Russel Arnold long hop. In all this, Lance Klusener's unbeaten 44 tended to be a sideshow, but he is still there and South Africa are bound to try to march as far as they can on the third day.

The pitch, said Cullinan, still had pace and although the bounce was not as steep as the first day, it was consistent enough to allow the cross-bat shots -"You know, the cuts and the hooks and the pulls". Sri Lanka, though, looked dejected, no doubt wondering how they had managed to get themselves out for 95.

Even Muralitharan posed a lesser threat than usual and the quicks, who had looked handy on the first day, eventually became cannon fodder.

For all but Sri Lankan fans, it has been a sparkling Test match with more adventure and excitement than almost the whole of the South African summer added together. Sri Lanka have undoubtedly crumbled and it will be a measure of their collective character to see how much dignity they can salvage from this match.