South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day

South Africa build commanding advantage

The Report by Andrew McGlashan

December 16, 2011

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South Africa 389 for 9 (de Villiers 99, Boucher 49*, Tahir 24*) lead Sri Lanka 180 by 209 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince added 97 for the sixth wicket, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day, December 16, 2011
AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince helped put South Africa in command © Getty Images

It wasn't all one-way traffic on the second day in Centurion but South Africa ended in a very commanding position, having built a lead of 209 with AB de Villiers' 99 the cornerstone of their innings. He and Ashwell Prince added a crucial 97-run stand for the sixth wicket, which was supplemented by a useful hand from the under-pressure Mark Boucher, after Sri Lanka had hauled themselves back into the contest with a spirited display .

The difference in the quality of the attacks was on stark display because even though Sri Lanka had periods where they were on top, they couldn't sustain pressure throughout. When Jacques Kallis, who had taken a nasty blow on the helmet from Dilhara Fernando before lunch, was caught at third slip South Africa were 173 for 5 and an even contest wasn't far away. However, despite a number of near-misses the visitors couldn't strike again until the lead was close to three figures and Boucher's unbeaten 49 ensured there was no way back for Sri Lanka. By the close the last five wickets had added 216.

Sri Lanka were convinced they had de Villiers caught behind on 69 - when the score was 273 for 6 - off Angelo Mathews, who had just removed Prince to offer a glimmer of hope. Tillakaratne Dilshan immediately asked for a review. There was a faint, and very short-lived, mark on the inside edge shown by Hot Spot but not enough conclusive evidence to overturn the on-field decision. Dilshan's reaction suggested he thought otherwise.

By the time de Villiers was removed, slashing low to point one short of his 13th Test hundred, South Africa were forging ahead. de Villiers' dismissal was notable, however, as the batsman took the fielder's word that the ball had carried; it was the type of catch third umpires have often turned down.

Given that the pitch retained plenty of help for the pace bowlers it was an exceptional innings from de Villiers who reined in his natural instincts, with his fifty taking 91 balls. He gained some criticism for being over aggressive against Australia but judged the requirements perfectly on this occasion, yet never missed an opportunity to score whether through sweet straight driving or powerful pulling.

de Villiers and Prince have a history of sharing important partnerships for South Africa and their styles complemented each other despite de Villiers being more circumspect than normal. Prince, though, had a slightly charmed life as he edged wide and over the slips and was given a life on 23 when a low chance at gully was put down.

Smart stats

  • AB de Villiers became the sixth South African batsman to be dismissed for 99. It is also the 79th instance of a batsman falling for 99 in Tests.
  • It is also the seventh instance of a batsman being dismissed for 99 against Sri Lanka and the first against Sri Lanka after Virender Sehwag's dismissal at the SSC in 2010.
  • The 97-run stand between de Villiers and Ashwell Prince is the fourth-highest sixth-wicket stand for South Africa against Sri Lanka and the highest such stand against Sri Lanka in home Tests.
  • There have been only two occasions (excluding the match when South Africa and England forfeited their innings) in Centurion when teams have lost despite gaining a lead at the end of the first innings. Sri Lanka lost by six wickets after gaining a 103-run lead in 1998 and New Zealand lost by 128 runs after gaining a 51-run lead in 2006.
  • The only occasion South Africa have lost a Test after gaining a 200-plus run lead was against Australia in Durban in 1950. (matches excluding than the Test in 2000 when South Africa and England forfeited an innings each). Click here for matches when South Africa have batted first and here for matches when South Africa have bowled first.

When Prince edged to the keeper South Africa still required one more substantial innings to feel comfortable and Boucher showed his fighting qualities. The bowlers were tired and the spark had disappeared from Sri Lanka, but for Boucher they were still priceless runs as he aims to prove his Test career should be prolonged. He was supported by Imran Tahir, a renowned No. 11, who produced the day's most surprising display with a confident 24.

To Sri Lanka's credit they had emerged for the morning session full of vigour and determination. Jacques Rudolph, battling the pain of his dislocated finger from the first day, struggled for fluency and was put down at second slip on 30, when Mahela Jayawaradene couldn't hold a tough chance to his left.

Hashim Amla was more fluent, especially through the off side, but had there been a third slip he may have departed for 14, when he edged Chanaka Welegedara. Dilshan at least noted the near miss and posted an extra catcher when Thisara Perera came into the attack. It brought an immediate result. Mathews held a sharp chance, low to his right, when Amla went to drive a delivery that wasn't as full as he thought.

Perera had been disappointing the previous evening with the new ball, but settled into a probing spell and found significant seam movement. He was rewarded with a second wicket when he found Rudolph's outside edge with another delivery that nipped away from the left-hand batsman to end a 140-ball stay.

Kallis started his innings in fine style, and took three boundaries off an over against Perera, but badly misjudged the length of a Fernando short ball. He ducked straight into the delivery, which smashed him on the side of the helmet, and immediately lay on the ground as the physio - and later the team doctor - checked him over. He had been cut on the ear and appeared unsteady as he got to his feet, but resumed his innings.

It was an opportunity for Sri Lanka to make life hard for him and Fernando should have gained the crucial scalp for his hard work when Kallis, on 27, edged to Kaushal Silva only for the wicketkeeper, who went one-handed to his right, to palm the ball away. Such a miss could have been hugely costly, but Kallis only added four more after the break. From then on, however, Sri Lanka's chances ebbed away.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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