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August 6, 2006
A superb fast-bowling performance by Dale Steyn has given South Africa an important first-innings lead of 40 in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Steyn, who had figures of 2 for 70 off 11 overs at tea, came back strongly with the second new ball and took 3 for 12 in the space of 13 balls to complete his second five-wicket haul. Sri Lanka were dismissed for 321 and South Africa were 6 for no loss at stumps.
"At one stage it looked like they would have gone past us and taken a lead of their own," Steyn told reporters after the day's play. "But we kept saying out there 'guys anything from 10-to 35-run lead is very important'. Tomorrow we are going out there with 40-50 runs ahead without a wicket."
Before the match, Steyn had said that he would adopt a more aggressive approach and bowl plenty of short balls. "Our game plan was to take five wickets. When we sat down at lunch we said 'you know guys if there is a partnership, we stick to the game plan and things will work'. There were two big hundred partnerships. We knew once the new ball was taken it would be difficult for the tail to stick around. We tried to get through those overs as quickly as we could to the new ball."
In comparison to the first pitch at the SSC, Steyn said that this was a little bit quicker and had more bounce. "At the SSC the field was a little bit damp and the ball looked like dog's breakfast after 15 overs whereas this one was actually pretty good after 50 and the ball was still looking quite nice. That's the main difference."
At one stage Sri Lanka were 86 for 5 but recovered to reach 321. Chaminda Vaas, who top-scored with 64, felt that Sri Lanka, despite conceding a lead, had a chance to win.
"The wicket is still good for batting. We are 40 runs short but 321 is better than what we were at one stage," said Vaas. "If we bowl positively and get them under 250 or so we have a good chance. If you stay at the wicket and two batsmen get settled it is difficult to get them out."
Of late Vaas has developed into a reliable lower-order batsman. He was a thorn during the series in England averaging 92 with the bat and was dismissed just twice in six innings. "Earlier in my career I didn't get the opportunity to concentrate on my batting. I am working hard with Tom [Moody] and TP [Trevor Penny] in the nets. I changed my stance and my technique. I am leaving the balls very well. Those are the areas I am working with the coaches."