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

Sri Lanka find their self-belief

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For three consecutive innings, Kumar Sangakkara was dismissed by good, wicket-taking deliveries. Unlike some of his team-mates or even his opposition, Sangakkara did not spend enough time at the crease to play a poor shot. And it looked like he would not get that chance today either.

Another superb delivery, a tempting one outside the off stump, induced a poke and Sangakkara should have been out for three. Instead he went on to make 108, stamp his authority on the situation, the match and one of three countries in which he had not recorded a century until today. It was only a matter of time, really, given Sangakkara's status as a class act, on the field, off the field and around the world.

"If the luck works for you on a particular day, you have to try and capitalise," said Sangakkara. "You can't go into a negative frame of mind at any time, especially against good attacks. I am watching the ball a lot better than I was in the first few innings. Once I got to the 60s and the 70s, it was a case of waiting for the bad balls."

Hittable deliveries came often, especially after lunch, when South Africa dished up short ball after short ball, which went from threatening to tame fairly rapidly. Their game plan was indecipherable as they failed to find a balance between drying up runs and taking wickets, which allowed Sri Lanka to cash in on an indecisive opposition. "Once you get to a certain total in front of the opposition, they have to go into a defensive mode," Sangakkara said, admitting it freed him up to score runs.

Besides his individual effort, Sangakkara shared two key partnerships, first withThilan Samaraweera, with whom he put on 94, and then Dinesh Chandimal, in a stand of 104. He credited with both with being essential to Sri Lanka's new found sense of self-belief.

"Thilan was out of the side and had come back in for a very tough tour. To do what he did in that first innings for us was incredible. It was a make or break series for the guy," he said. "Chandimal has shown that he is strong, both physically and mentally. He showed he was not overawed by the situation or the South African attack."

Now that Sri Lanka have overcome the mental barrier of the situation and the team they are playing against, they have a loftier target in mind. "We'd like to get into a dominant position and dictate terms," said Sangakkara. "Our target is to get as many as we can and make the South Africa work really hard to save the game."

Even though South Africa will have to achieve a world-record chase to win the match, Sangakkara said "nothing is beyond the realms of possibility" and the team is gearing up for a tough fight. On a pitch which still has "a bit of inconsistent bounce" Sri Lanka's bowling attack will have to make good use of the conditions and work well with their resources.

Sangakkara expects Rangana Herath to be a key factor in the search for a first Test victory in South Africa. "He is going to be very important for us. If he can get some turn and bowl with the same control, he will be a handful to play on this track," said Sangakkara. "Our pace attack has got to do a lot to take early wickets and get us breakthroughs with the new ball."

Before Sri Lanka arrived on this tour, they were labelled no-hopers especially in terms of their bowling. Kepler Wessels said even South Africa A would be able to beat them. It is a comment that stung and that, Sangakkara said, also spurred them on. "Comments can inspire sides; pressure situations make sides rise to the occasion. We proved that we have the ability to counter-attack," he said.

Now they want to prove that to South Africa too. "The best way we can make it count is to get them out," he said. "We have to control the aggression, have positive mindsets and at no point lose control of our emotions."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • tinkumad on December 30, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    Congratulations Sri Lanka... keep up the good work!!!

  • dummy4fb on December 29, 2011, 16:22 GMT

    Kepler Wessels .... ?????? LOL LOL

  • dummy4fb on December 29, 2011, 16:21 GMT

    HAHa! Wessels said an SA-A team would beat SL!!! now what does he have to say! PROUD TO BE LANKAN!!!

  • prashkannam on December 29, 2011, 16:09 GMT

    LETS SEE WHAT MR VERNON PHILANDER OR THE NEW KID PACER OF SAF DO ON SLOWER TRACKS OF SUBCONTINENT.....C'MON GREEN TRACKERS ....U R GUD ONLY UR BOUNCY TRACKS ONLY!! WELL PLAYED SRILANKA

  • prashkannam on December 29, 2011, 16:07 GMT

    SOUTH AFRICANS ARE CHOKERS NOTHING MORE THAN THAT..............THEY WOULD PROBABLY WIN A GAME OR 2 ON GREEN TRACKS....THTS WHY MR MOONDA FROM SOUTH AFRICA ALSO KEEPS ON THIS HOME BRED GREEN TRACK BULLY TEAM OVERRATING THIS OUTHAFRICAN TEAM ON THEIR OWN HOME CONDITIONS....EXCEPT STEYN OR MORKEL THE REST OF THE SO CALLED MEDIUM PACER WHEN THEY COME TO SUBCONTINENT WILL STRUGGLE ON OUR TURNERS AND THEN MR GRAEME SMITH WILL KEEP ON CRYIN SAYING THIS IS THE WORST PITCH WE HAVE PLAYED ON....PLEASE SOUTH AFRICA IS A OVER RATED TEAM AND THEIR TEAM WILL STRUGGLE ON UNHELPFUL CONDITIONS...ITS JUST THAT THEIR STRENGTHS ARE OVERPROJECTED IN SOUTHAFRICA!!

  • KosalaDeSilva on December 29, 2011, 15:58 GMT

    it's not really flat track, it was good enough fast bowlers.Flat track you can find in india and Sri Lanka (like SSC). That shows when they don't have advantage with distance they can't manage to win. Let's see they make another green and well bias wicket for third test.what will ICC say? when they say too bad to make slow and spinning wicket like in Gall,what about these green wickets SL had in England and first test in SA? good?

  • dummy4fb on December 29, 2011, 15:48 GMT

    Well done Sri lanka.. Shame on you Kepler Wessels, Donald and all the jobless bloggers criticised lankan team.. watchout guys LIONS R BACK!!!

  • TYJAY on December 29, 2011, 10:31 GMT

    i still think there is a little chance SA might win this game. I think SL is short of another 50 runs. Will seeeeeeeee

  • IanJF on December 29, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    News just in - Kepler Wessles padding up to bat @ No. 8

  • stormy16 on December 29, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    A lot is being read in to a game that still has two days to go. Granted SL have done a terrific job to get to this position and yes I think SA showed no respect for an opponent who was down, which is never a good idea. I think the best thing to come from this game thus far is Chandimal who showed amazing maturity and ability in his first test sharing two 100 run partnerships - the only two in the game after 3 innings. Was notable the way he handled the short ball with little or no problems. For SL to claim self belief they still need to win this game.

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