'We have a good chance of saving the game' - Rudolph
Jacques Rudolph and Andrew Hall were both confident that South Africa would be able to save the first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo. The pair gave their team the ideal start towards drawing the match with a record opening partnership of 165 in 206 minutes that saw South Africa end the fourth day on 311 for 4. They still require a further 276 runs to make Sri Lanka bat again with six wickets in hand going into the final day tomorrow.
"We are playing well the way we expected. The guys are positive and the way we are playing suggests it can be done," said Hall who scored 64. "It is still a very good pitch to bat. If you compare the first innings, we had many soft dismissals whilst in the second we've worked hard with determination. We had better shot selection."
Rudolph who missed out on a hundred by ten runs was of the opinion that the first hour of the final day was crucial. "It was a big day for us and I feel tomorrow is important", he said. "If we can get there and survive the first hour we will have a good chance of saving the game.
"If we are to save this test we need a big partnership. Hally [Hall] and I have given our team the platform. To get out in the 90s was disappointing. Dilhara [Fernando] was bowling a good spell at that stage. This is my fourth score of 90 in Test cricket. I don't want to make it a habit. I must admit I enjoy Sri Lanka very much."
Tom Moody, the Sri Lanka coach, said that he was very confident of getting the remaining six South African wickets tomorrow.
"We knew it was always going to be difficult", he said. "It would have been nice to have snapped one more wicket at the end of the day. But four wickets we are reasonably happy with. We have our work cut out tomorrow. But you've got to give credit where it's due. They dug in which we knew they were going to do and played well.
"Hopefully the wicket will deteriorate a little bit more. It hasn't certainly deteriorated as much as what we would have liked. If anything, it's probably got a little bit more placid. It's turning, but turning very slowly. It nullifies the greatest spinner [Muttiah Muralitharan] the game has seen"
Moody said that given the conditions of the pitch, they had to try something new to take wickets and that is why Muralitharan was given the second new ball, with which he took AB de Villiers's wicket. "We have to give him every advantage as possible when the wicket is not doing a hell of a lot," said Moody. "I think you need a little bit of an imagination and experimentation when you get into situations like this. Try something out of the ordinary."
Moody added that Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, did the best he could in the field to apply the pressure. He was also confident that the players would be rejuvenated on the last day and take every chance that comes their way.
"It makes all those wonderful achievements even sweeter when there is success. The boys know that. They'll rest up well tonight and look forward to the challenge tomorrow. They will come out fighting for that victory."