Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day July 16, 2014

Sri Lanka hit back after Elgar century


South Africa 268 for 5 (Elgar 103, du Plessis 80, Lakmal 2-29) v Sri Lanka
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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At 195 for 1, South Africa had made a near-perfect start to the Tests after the victorious ODI series, but Sri Lanka hit back with four wickets after tea to edge the day on a flat, dry pitch. Dean Elgar became the first South Africa opener to make a Test hundred in Sri Lanka but his dismissal in the final session kickstarted the hosts' fightback.

It had been all South Africa till then. In his first Test as captain, Hashim Amla had won the toss on a pitch expected to turn later. Elgar, in only his third Test innings as opener, and his first outside South Africa, had responded with an innings full of positivity and equally high on concentration. Faf du Plessis, batting at No. 3 for the first time in Tests, had battled his way through scoreless periods with aggressive footwork against spin. By tea, the second-wicket partnership had grown to 124. Alviro Petersen's fall against the run of play for 34 in the morning had been the only blip for the visitors. To add to Sri Lanka's worries, Shaminda Eranga had been restricted to nine overs after splitting the webbing of his right hand while fielding.

But Sri Lanka had found some promising reverse swing after lunch, and they did so again after tea. The first examination yielded no results but during the second Elgar went after a Suranga Lakmal delivery that held its line and edged it behind. A small, but significant opening had been made.

Amla was intent on driving at anything pitched up, but the timing just wasn't there. He tried to loft the tireless Rangana Herath over the off side, but only spooned a catch to wide mid-off for 11.

Du Plessis, who was eager to combat spin by advancing down the pitch, finally failed to reach the pitch of an offbreak from Dilruwan Perera and forward short leg was in business.

AB de Villiers seemed to be taking South Africa to stumps safely, despite Sri Lanka taking the second new ball, when he tried a weak, loose drive to Lakmal and found his stumps disturbed in the penultimate over. The final session had cost South Africa four wickets for 74 runs in 31 overs.

The first one had read 111 for 1 in 29 overs. Both captains were eager to bat and it soon became apparent why. There was no seam movement, barely any swing and the bounce was largely predictable as well as harmless. Elgar and Petersen did what they were required to do: they left well, defended strongly off either foot and having seen there was nothing alarming in the pitch, soon started putting the bad deliveries away. The duo put on 70 at more than four an over.

Herath came on as early as the seventh over, and finished with 37 for the day. The pitch wasn't conducing for him so early in the match. Elgar was even able to go back and late-cut him against the turn to the third-man boundary. The runs were flowing now for South Africa. By the tenth over, Angelo Mathews had brought himself on as the fourth bowler.

South Africa have had three century opening partnerships in Tests in Sri Lanka and this looked set to be the fourth one but in Perera's second over, Petersen went back to a flighted delivery and was caught in front as it came on without much turn.

Du Plessis walked in and worked himself to a steady start with a series of paddle-sweeps. He was smothered after lunch though, but finally broke free from a period where he made 6 off 45 by skipping out to loft Perera over mid-off and mid-on for consecutive fours.

Elgar was much more comfortable in the crease, playing late, allowing the ball to come on, and then committing himself with conviction. He was watching the ball so hard that even when Perera seemed to have beaten him with flight and drift, he was able to adjust and place the ball past mid-off for four. That took him to 90, and a straight six, when on 96, off the same bowler brought a long-drawn scream of a celebration.

South Africa took tea at 194 for 1, but despite being a bowler short, Sri Lanka weren't prepared to hand them a third session on the trot.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 17, 2014, 7:01 GMT

    This match is turning into a great test match as it seems. Both the teams are being tested here in many different levels. Sri Lanka are already down to 10 players and Lakmal will have to lead the pace attack alone for the rest of the match. Anyway, Its very important for Sri Lanka to get the 3 remaining wickets for 20-30 runs. I'm eagerly waiting to see another masterclass innings from masterclass Mahela and a big partnership with big mate Sanga against their favorite opponents. :P

    @MelbourneMiracle ; C'mon dude. AB n Amla are truly world class. They are loved n respected by everyone. Its not very Sri Lankan to abuse Saffers, specially those two.

  • Neranga on July 17, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    some pundits predicted over 500 mammoth total. now what ? Good come back by Srilanka. good spells from lakmal & hope steyn & thahir will be a huge threat.. if we can dominate the 3rd & 4th days with batting with a 150+ lead can be demolished SA lineup with spin friendly wicket.. hope herath & dilruwan will enjoy the wicket on 5th day.

  • Android on July 17, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    @MelbourneMiracle glorified ODI bullies. That's why they're at the top of the test rankings. Amla had had 1 innings as test captain so it's too early to say it's affecting his batting, and you obviously don't watch SA cricket enough to know that AB knows how to bat in tests, that's why he's top of the rankings

  • Android on July 17, 2014, 6:07 GMT

    It looks maybe SA couldn't make 400r but Duminy has stood on the Crees any thing happens.

  • Shamalka on July 17, 2014, 6:04 GMT

    So we saw how the two so-called great batsmen got out v.cheaply. Those 2 are nothing more than glorified ODI bullies. Amla's facial expressions and body language clearly showed how much the captaincy pressure has effected his batting already. AB should learn that Test batting is different from ODI batting. Anyway they will learn what is test batting when Sanga, Mahela and Mathews come on to bat.

  • Hareendra on July 17, 2014, 5:55 GMT

    Thirimanne should not have played here. He a an awful series in England. He now averages a paltry 26 with the bat. Why not play Kithruwan who averages 69 and is younger than Thirimanne?

  • Dummy4 on July 17, 2014, 5:26 GMT

    pathefic defensive selection,herath peformence are going down(pak series,england series,).we haven't got attacking spinners.tharidu kaushal shoud have played,

  • Nenu on July 17, 2014, 4:55 GMT

    If SL hosts 2-3 series against Bangladesh/Zimbabwe in an year each and get them all out for 80/90 in each test innings, no wonder the runs per wicket is going to be less.

  • Dimuthu on July 17, 2014, 4:32 GMT

    Good to see Lakmal is performing well, good job by Vass. But I don't know why they consider Nuwan Pradeep ahead of left arm baller Chanaka welagedara. he has speed and his fitness is far better.

  • Srilankan on July 17, 2014, 4:08 GMT

    SL could have gone with one more bowler in expense of Lahiru Thirimanne.