Sri Lanka v South Africa, 2nd Test, Colombo, 1st day August 4, 2006

New ball will be important - Prince



de Villiers: 'I find playing against Murali a good challenge. When he bowls bad balls it goes for four' © AFP

Ashwell Prince, the South African captain, reckons that they have a competitive score to put Sri Lanka under pressure after being dismissed for 361 at the end of the first day of the second Test in Colombo.

"We've got something competitive and it's still a long way to go," Prince told reporters after the day's play. "The guys know it's going to be tough. The outfield is quick and the scoring will be quick. It's going to be important for us to start well with the new ball."

Prince scored 86 and added 161 for the fifth wicket with AB de Villiers, who scored 95. The pair managed to tackle Muttiah Muralitharan, who took his 55th five-wicket haul, by playing attacking cricket. "If you just stand in the crease and get yourself bogged down, it allows Murali to put more fielders around and he puts you under pressure," said Prince. "It was part of our game plan to put that pressure back onto him and he has bowled a few looser balls than at the start. But he is still dangerous and still picks up wickets. The more we see of him the more we are playing him better.

"The way AB [de Villiers] plays he puts the bowlers under pressure. Him being a fast runner and me, we were able to turn the strike around with intensity. It is something we have to discuss in the dressing-room with other team members. We had a good partnership and it was unfortunate that one of us had to get out."

de Villiers had spoken with confidence of playing Murali aggressively at the start of the series. "I find playing against Murali a good challenge. I feel that I am playing him more comfortably and I am working him around. When he bowls bad balls it goes for four, but he is still one of the best bowlers in the world. He can get you out any time."

South Africa's 361 was a tremendous improvement from their 169 in the first innings of the previous Test but Tom Moody, Sri Lanka's coach, was pleased with his team's performance. "We are very happy with the outcome today. Losing the toss and managing to take ten wickets. It's a good day for Sri Lanka."

He added that the injury to Dilhara Fernando, who suffered from a stiff thigh, had taken them by surprise. "We weren't expecting it. But it opened the door for someone else to have an opportunity. Farveez Maharoof who was expected to be left out for Chaminda Vaas got the nod again. It's a shame to lose a strike bowler who can bowl 90 mph. The positive is that Maharoof is an allrounder and it has given us depth in our batting. It highlights how important it was to take ten wickets in the day without a genuine strike bowler."