South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Durban, 3rd day December 28, 2011

Sangakkara ton keeps Sri Lanka in charge

Sri Lanka 338 and 256 for 7 (Sangakkara 108, Chandimal 54) lead South Africa 168 by 426 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sri Lanka came into this match facing the prospect of their first win-less year in Tests since 1997, and after the hammering in Centurion few predicted anything other than a straightforward win for South Africa in Durban. Three days into the game though, they are firmly on course for their first Test win in 16 attempts, and their first since the retirement of their greatest match-winner, Muttiah Muralitharan.

Kumar Sangakkara made his first important contribution of the series, while Thilan Samaraweera and Dinesh Chandimal made their second each of the game to steer Sri Lanka's lead towards match-winning proportions. Sangakkara's first century in South Africa left the home side needing to pull off a world record chase to end their Durban jinx.

Sangakkara, the world's No. 1 Test batsman, came into this innings with scores of 0, 1 and 2 in the series, and could have been dismissed on 3 in the day's first over. After overnight rain delayed the start of play by an hour, South Africa's quick bowlers were on top of their game in the morning. Morne Morkel sent an early warning, getting the first ball to zip past Sangakkara's outside edge. Three deliveries later he induced a nick only to see Mark Boucher's late dive distract Graeme Smith from pouching a catch at slip.

There are plenty of theories about what helps fast bowlers at Kingsmead. The Green Mamba is a usual suspect, but today the talk was about the change in wind direction that would help the ball jag around. It was overcast in Durban as well, but there was still no dramatic swing or seam for the South Africa fast bowlers.

That didn't stop them from probing away before lunch. Tharanga Paranavitana had a torrid time, regularly beaten outside off and struck on the back by a short ball. Eight of his nine runs came through not entirely assured glides past gully, before his innings ended with an edge to fourth slip.

When Mahela Jayawardene was dismissed soon after - padding up to a Marchant de Lange incutter which would have gone on to hit off stump - South Africa were sensing a way back into the game despite conceding a 170-run first-innings lead.

Sangakkara and Samaraweera made sure Sri Lanka remained firmly in charge, helped by a lacklustre bowling effort after lunch. Sangakkara had shown signs of his increasing confidence even before the break - whipping a gift from Jacques Kallis on the leg stump for four before upper cutting de Lange for another boundary - and he continued in the same vein.

He was given plenty of short deliveries outside off, which he comfortably slapped towards deep point. As the innings progressed, Sangakkara's classic drives started making an appearance. He was also positive against Imran Tahir, using the sweep effectively to blunt the legspinner. One of the other highlights of his innings was his judgment outside the off stump, repeatedly shouldering arms to frustrate the fast bowlers.

It helped Sri Lanka that Samaraweera wasn't his usual cautious self. Instead, fresh from his first-innings century, Samaraweera drove, cut and glanced boundaries on his way to an unusually brisk 43 before being undone by a slider from Tahir. Angelo Mathews then joined the long list of batsmen who played strokes to regret in this match, edging to Boucher after attempting to pull a short and wide delivery.

Fears of a collapse were averted as Sangakkara was supported by Chandimal. The 22-year-old Chandimal had shown in the first innings that he wasn't afraid of going for his shots, and that spirit was evident today as well. He slogged to midwicket and slashed over the slips as he went on to become the first Sri Lankan debutant to make a half-century in each innings of a Test. The highlight was a pull off Dale Steyn for four after some banter between the pair.

The 104-run stand with Sangakkara pushed the lead well beyond 400. Sangakkara already has 27 Test centuries, so they couldn't have been too many nerves in the nineties. Even if there were, he didn't have much time to dwell on it as Kallis presented him a couple of boundary-balls. The century came up with a square drive for two. It was the second hundred in the match for Sri Lanka, after they had managed only one in eight previous Tests in South Africa.

South Africa removed both Sangakkara and Chandimal towards the end of the day, but that hardly altered the match situation as Sri Lanka were still favourites to pull off one of their most famous Test wins.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments