South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day January 4, 2012

We're talented and tough enough - Marsh


When the Sri Lankan team watched the sun set behind Table Mountain two evenings ago, the possibility of winning their first series in South Africa still existed. Now, not even halfway into the deciding Test match and their focus has shifted substantially. Instead of their sights set on a massive upset they are looking only for a draw as they aim to share the spoils in this series.

Geoff Marsh, Sri Lanka's coach, admitted their poor first day, in which they conceded 347 runs and took just three wickets, cost the chance of shooting for the stars. "We have to play catch up cricket now," said Marsh. "But if we manage to avoid the follow-on then that will open the game up a little bit."

Sri Lanka still require 232 runs to avoid the possibility of being asked to bat again at Newlands. With the amount of time left in the game, they will have to put in a supreme stand at the crease to deny South Africa their first series win at home since 2008, something Marsh thinks the hosts are anxious to achieve.

When Graeme Smith declared, 40 minutes before tea, the decision was somewhat surprising because South Africa could have pushed the advantage. Marsh said he expected Smith to call time on South Africa's innings because of the importance of clinching the contest. "They've got to win the game to win the series so we thought we would be batting at that time," said Marsh. "They have to give themselves time to bowl us out twice."

Marsh believes Sri Lanka's line-up is talented and tough enough to put up adequate resistance. "If we bat well, we are capable of making big scores," said Marsh. "We've got some very good Test cricketers with some very good averages and we would expect what we were doing to back that up."

The back up started with captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, who scored an aggressive 78, before falling in a typical fashion, attempting a big shot over long-on. It is his best effort of the tour and his first half-century in the three Tests. Had he still been at the crease, Sri Lanka would have slept easier. "We'd love to have been one down," said Marsh but added that the team was grateful for the start Dilshan gave them. "Dilshan plays the way Dilshan plays, that's why he is so dangerous. It's always good when Dilshan gets runs because he gets them so quickly. He himself wants to be a bit more consistent. Today he batted beautifully. It's a pity he got out."

Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are currently at the crease. The pair hold the world-record partnership for any team with their third-wicket stand of 624 against South Africa in Colombo. Although that was achieved in completely different circumstances, it is a performance that Sri Lanka will likely draw some inspiration from.

The strip itself may provide the rest of the motivation. From their first day's toil, Sri Lanka know that taking 20 wickets on a batsmen-friendly pitch will be a challenge for any side. Sri Lanka struggled to make breakthroughs on a pitch that didn't offer much assistance and a batting line-up determined to attack.

More than inexperience, it was the lack of surety that affected Sri Lanka's bowlers and may be the reason they miss their chance at history. If they do, they can take some consolation in knowing that they have been described as the sub-continental side that has made the biggest strides by South African stalwart Jacques Kallis. "In previous years sub-continent sides have struggled with the bounce in South Africa but they have all improved the way they've played the pace and bounce," he said. "And I think Sri Lanka have improved the most."

When the sun sets on the Test series in three days time, Marsh said his team do not want it to go down with them left wondering about what could have been. "To beat real good sides, you can't make mistakes but the boys are really keen," he said. "They don't want to just play the last Test, win that, and then play badly in this Test."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 11:15 GMT

    It's amazing how people will just make up false statistics to write on these forums when their team is losing. Contrary to what people are saying, SA has a better record than Aus in India. SA beat India by more than an innings in Nagpur Feb (6-9) 2010. SA have beaten Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. No one seems to actually check whether what they're saying is true or not.

    So likewise, next time SA may be losing a test in Colombo, I'm going to try and discredit Sri Lanka's victory as much as possible by making up false statistics about them, then you will see how annoying it is.

  • Asiri on January 5, 2012, 7:38 GMT

    What i don't understand is that why Sri Lanka does not try to put there best side to test cricket. This is quite a bad patch to SL. What to do? all go through this kind of times. Foe some the recovery time is more than the others. It is Cricket. What i believe is SL should make every efferent to select the best side. I can give a one example , Opener for Sri Lanka. Paranavitana is out of form. Thirimanna is not up to it. We have Upul Tharanga in our one day side. Why cant we give him more opportunities. It is true that Upul's test record is not grate . But he played his last test game in 2007. If you take his ODI record since 2007 it one of the best in SL side. Why can't we give him a place in test side. All know that he is a 100 maker. The other thing is he is not too old . Born in 1985. I think we should give him more opportunities for him.

  • Dru on January 5, 2012, 6:12 GMT

    Sure SL has the talent and the records to score big but can they do it when it matters - like today? The senior players of Sanga, Mahela and Thilan must stand up and be counted when it matters. The pitch is not difficult to bat on and there is an opportunity to drag this game in to a draw by batting well one in this game. There will be no excuses for failing on this wicket. @cpt.meanster - yeah hillarious that an Aussie is the SA coach! Cast your mind back to the 20 years from 1985-2005 when Eng were a joke. Finally, if you want to play international cricket without India good luck - all the cricket boards are jumping over each other to play India so get over it.

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    Since when is Gary Kirsten an Ausie?? Even I take offense at this, never mind how Gary Kirsten may feel about this! It always amazes me just how much nonsense is written in these comments. To write off all Sub Continent teams as "unfit to play high quality test cricket" outside the Sub Continent is more than a ridiculous statement. What happened in the 2nd test between the Proteas and Sri Lanka in Durban, alone, is ample proof of just how ridiculous this statement is. Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan are all excellent teams that can win test matches anywhere in the world, on the day. In a decade or so (perhaps sooner) Bangladesh will join them.

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 5:20 GMT

    @Ra_One_SL- hats off mchn......... ! u ar always good @ ur home turfs ! itz an eternal truth ! If SA plays @ SL .......... we all know the result..........

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    ra_one_sl.....please correct your information....while england maybe a pathetic in subcontinent conditions,southafrica aren't,they havn't won in srilanka,they lost twice and drew once,but they have beaten pakistan and india in their own backyards and to inform you further southafrica have the best track record in india in tests since the gr8 windiz team of the 1980z,even better than the aussies...who have won in india only once since 1969 and lost on all other occasions...while southafrica won in 1996,2000,lost in 2004, drew in 2008,2010...i am not saying southafrica is the best test team...they are still far away from that point but there performance in overseas and in subcontinent is the best in the last decade..cpt.meanster..saf are being coached by a southafrican..not by an aussie...and as far as your top3 sides are concerned...aus is in arebuilding phase...southafrica will have to throw that chokers tag if they want to become no.1...and eng should learn to play in subcontinent

  • Ty on January 5, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    Well Dilshan is a big disappointment. He should only play IPL!

  • Rukshan on January 5, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    I agree with rana 2000, any test team need some one like dilshan . and i still believe sri lanka can win this match. But first they should make sure that they bat through out the third day to avoid the defeat.

  • S on January 5, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    Good see Dlshan among the runs. He was unlucky to out before the close. Let's wait and see what's in store from the two veterans at the wicket.

  • Ranil on January 5, 2012, 0:44 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster Sorry mate. Your predictions going to be wrong about test cricket rankings. Mind you SA and ENG have a poor record so far in subcontinent in your "elite" format of test cricket. Needless to say their performance in ODI and T20 are miserable in subcontinent. In contrast, Australia have a success in all part of the world in every format. Let's see the results of next test series of ENG or SA in subcontinent. You"ll have to adjust your "top 3 forever" in rankings.

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