Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day July 18, 2014

Steyn five-for gives SA control

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'Tahir needs to get his control back'

Sri Lanka 283 for 9 (Mathews 89, Tharanga 83, Steyn 5-50) trail South Africa 455 for 9 dec by 172 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Dale Steyn ripped through Sri Lanka with his 23rd five-wicket haul to give South Africa control of the Galle Test. Angelo Mathews fought with another rearguard effort after Headlingley last month, but Steyn had inflicted so much damage that South Africa still ended the day 172 runs in front.

The Galle pitch was still largely quiet amid sporadic bouts of activity, but that did not deter Steyn, whose pace and venom did not dip throughout his 21 overs in sapping heat and humidity. Steyn went level with Richard Hadlee and Courtney Walsh for the most five-fors by a non-Asian bowler in Asia.

Steyn bounced out Kaushal Silva in the morning and returned at the stroke of lunch to trap Mahela Jayawardene in front with a full, inswinging ripper. Even as Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne resisted, he came back again after tea with a furious spell of 5-3-8-3.

At 98 for 1, Sri Lanka seemed to be heading safely to lunch with Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga having added 59 in quick time. Sangakkara, on a record streak of seven successive fifty-plus scores, had looked in no trouble at all. Only Morne Morkel had made him hop once with a sharp bouncer, but even then Sangakkara had been able to drop his wrists and avoid harm. His response was an emphatic cover drive for four.

Rain arrived half an hour before lunch and second ball after the ten-minute break, Sangakkara went for a pull off an unremarkable short ball from Morkel, and under-edged on to the stumps for 24.

Tharanga came back to Test cricket after seven years with a stroke-filled 83, despite being in discomfort at times. Vernon Philander even grazed his off bail when Tharanga was on 35 but the bail did not come off. Tharanga was also beaten by both spinners Imran Tahir and JP Duminy.

Such deliveries were not frequent, though, and Tharanga was quick to counterattack, punching and pulling for boundaries in response, before skipping out to whip Duminy down the ground to bring up his fifty.

South Africa continued with Steyn and Tahir after lunch, but Sri Lanka saw off the fast bowler and the legspinner provided too many boundary balls to be a consistent threat.

There was, however, increasingly more assistance for spin from the rough outside the left-hander's off stump. Amla turned to Duminy and seeing Tharanga jump out early, the offspinner spun a flatter one away from the rough and had him stumped in his first over on return.

Duminy had earned himself an extended spell, and along with the quick bowlers, he tied down Mathews and Thirimanne, only 14 coming off nearly 12 overs. Mathews was 5 off 34 when he charged Duminy and his heave just cleared midwicket. Duminy started conceding a boundary every over, but Tahir showed better control in his second spell, not letting the batsmen get away.

The stand had stretched into its 29th over and was worth 54 when Steyn stepped up once more. He had beaten Thirimanne outside off previous over, and first ball of the next, had him edging a full and away moving delivery to the keeper on the drive. Dinesh Chandimal pulled one straight to short midwicket next over, and Steyn swung one in to nick Dilruwan Perera's inside edge through to Quinton de Kock in the next.

Steyn was understandably spent after this effort, and was out of the attack for the next 15 overs, in which Mathews, along with Rangana Herath, nearly repeated Headingley.

Mathews went after Morkel in the 79th over, hitting him for five fours, three of them flayed through extra cover. That brought spin from both ends, as Amla used the part-time slow left-arm of Dean Elgar along with Tahir and Duminy, none of whom could bother Mathews and Herath too much.

Even as South Africa delayed taking the second new ball, Steyn was brought back with Mathews motoring towards his hundred. It was Tahir who ended the stand on 71, when Mathews missed a slog and was bowled.

Morkel had Suranga Lakmal feathering a slog to the keeper off the last ball of the day to leave only the injured Shaminda Eranga to come out on the fourth morning.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo