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August 6, 2006
Opener Herschelle Gibbs was confident his team had the bowlers to exploit the pitch and help South Africa win the second Test being played in Colombo. Gibbs who needed some big runs behind him having scored only 37 in three innings in the series, finally came good to score a valuable 92 to enable South Africa finish the third day on 257 for 7, with a lead of 297.
"The wicket is going to get worse. It is very dry and I have a feeling tomorrow one or two balls are going to explode and go over the top a little bit. Spin is going to get bigger in the last two days. We are in for an interesting two days," said Gibbs, who battled it out in the middle for 247 minutes before finally succumbing to the wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan.
"The new ball, which proved their undoing in their first innings is going to be vital", he said. "The wicket is not going to get any easier to bat on. That's for sure. We got the bowlers who can make quite a lot of damage on this sort of wicket. You don't have to rely on a spinner. If the ball starts reversing we've got two quicks that can do it. I am backing my bowlers at this stage to get us a result here."
Gibbs praised Sri Lanka's approach to the third day's play where they tightened up the game so that South Africa had to work hard for the runs.
"Sri Lanka definitely did bowl a lot better after lunch. They set good field placements which made it more difficult for us to score. Unfortunately we lost one or two quick wickets. We needed to restart and try and get a partnership going. It was clever thinking on the Sri Lankan captain. We had the option of coming down to Murali and hitting him down to long on or there was a backward square deep on the fence. For me the sweep was working well till I got out. Basically to take the strike against Murali was a huge factor as it is always is against him."
Gibbs who missed out on a hundred by eight runs said it would have been nice if he got to it, but added: "The side needed someone to bat most of the day today and I accomplished that. It's a big season ahead especially with the World Cup coming up in a few months time. It's nice to get early form in the season because we had a break for the last two to three months. It has set me up nicely for the one day series."
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, said the important thing for them today was that they were still in the game. "We fought really hard to get close to the South African total and today, in tough conditions, we were very patient and got the rewards for it", he said. "It is still not over yet.This morning when we spoke to the guys we knew we were up for it. We told them that every run we could save could be vital for us. I think they put in a lot of effort in the field today including a couple of run outs. That's the standard that we want to maintain.
Jayawardene admitted that any team will be tested on the fourth innings chasing 300 plus. "That's where character comes in. This team has proven time and time again that we are capable of these kinds of challenges. It's another Test match for us and there is nothing to lose from here onwards. We have been chasing this game from day one and we are still in with a chance. That's a challenge for us. The wicket is playing well. It is turning a little bit but there are no demons in it. Whatever score they put in we should give a good run for it. It's all about application at the end of the day. It's going to be tough for them as well."
Sri Lanka has never chased anything more than 326 to win a Test match but Jayawardene said: "Sri Lanka never saved a Test match scoring 537 (against England at Lord's). These are the challenges we are looking forward to. If we fall short we have to make certain that we have given 100 percent out there."
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