Sri Lanka batsmen put up improved show
Sri Lanka 289 for 7 (Samaraweera 86*, Chandimal 58, de Lange 4-60) v South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Twenty-one-year-old tearaway Marchant de Lange joined the flood of exciting bowling talent coming in to Tests this year, but he couldn't prevent Sri Lanka from having their best day of the series in Durban. The oldest and youngest members in Sri Lanka's squad, Thilan Samaraweera and debutant Dinesh Chandimal, added 111 in the second half of the day after de Lange troubled the visitors with a pacy spell.
Tillakaratne Dilshan boldly set his floundering batting unit a challenge by choosing to bat on the usually fast-bowler friendly Kingsmead pitch. Several days of sunshine in the lead-up to the match, though, helped make the track flatter than normal, offering little swing for the quicks.
Dilshan's adventurousness continued when he batted - he attempted several flashy on-the-up drives, which he rarely middled though he also managed to avoid edging to the slip cordon. He and Tharanga Paranavitana saw off the challenge of a slightly out-of-sorts Dale Steyn and an improved Morne Morkel. But de Lange came on to transform the morning session.
Bowling off a surprisingly short run-up for someone who regularly hits the mid-140s, the 1.9m de Lange delivers the ball with a high-arm action that gives a trampoline effect to several of his deliveries. That, coupled with his tight line outside off, troubled Sri Lanka: first Paranavitana attempted a drive to a full ball, only to nick to the keeper, before Kumar Sangakkara got a peach that moved a hint away and forced him to play at, feathering through to Mark Boucher to give de Lange his second wicket in three deliveries.
Fears of a familiar Sri Lankan capitulation were eased as Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene set about rebuilding the innings. Dilshan's cavalier strokes started to come off, including a controlled pull off Steyn for four, and he also capitalised on some freebies from Imran Tahir. Jayawardene got the single he needed to become the first Sri Lankan to 10,000 Test runs and looked assured in the middle. One of the highlights of his innings was a flat six over square leg, off a short ball down the leg side from Tahir.
Dilshan was also given a hit-me ball by Tahir: a knee-high full toss outside leg stump. Dilshan, instead of taking advantage, slapped it straight to deep-backward square leg to end his innings on 47 and raise more questions about the captain's shot-selection. Jayawardene and Samaraweera struck a flurry of boundaries to take Sri Lanka to lunch without further damage. Soon after the break, though, Morkel was finally rewarded for his probing bowling, as he got one to swerve in and crash into Jayawardene's off stump.
For the fourth time in the day, Sri Lanka put on a promising partnership which ended before reaching 50. Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews picked off regular boundaries, some convincing, like a pull by Mathews off Steyn, and some unconvincing, like Samaraweera's streaky four to third man as he lifted his bat late. A gentle push by Mathews past mid-off for four brought up Sri Lanka's 150 before drinks, but just as the batsmen looked comfortable, a full toss did the job for South Africa again. de Lange was the beneficiary this time as Mathews punched it right back at the bowler.
Samaraweera dug in after that, but Chandimal didn't hold back. His first Test runs came off a cross-batted swat down the ground for four, and a volley of boundaries took him to 24 off 26. It wasn't all middle-of-the-bat stuff, though. He miscued one straight over the in-field and then nearly holed out in the final over before tea, as de Lange couldn't latch on to a mis-hit at mid-on.
The final session was almost all Sri Lanka as the partnership extended beyond 100. Samaraweera had his escapes against Tahir - a wrong no-ball call for overstepping on a delivery that resulted in a caught-and-bowled, Mark Boucher missed a stumping after the ball spun and kicked past the batsman and an edge landed just short of first slip - but he was more enterprising as well, lofting Tahir for boundaries down the ground soon after his half-century.
Chandimal was more controlled, preferring the singles though there were the occasional touches of audacity as well. A Steyn delivery was dabbed late to third man for four, Tahir was slogged to midwicket before a chop past point four brought up a half-century which rounded off a great day for debutants.
The light was fading and close of play was nearing when, yet again, South Africa were gift-wrapped a wicket. Morkel sent one short and well wide of offstump which Chandimal swished at without moving his feet, giving Boucher his third catch of the day. Samaraweera struggled with cramps and a testing spell from Steyn but remained on course for his first century outside Sri Lanka in nearly two years.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo