Atapattu confident of SL victory
Former Sri Lanka coaches have often spoken of the team's thrill for a fight, particularly from poor positions. As the man currently in that job, Marvan Atapattu delivered a fighting talk of his own, after the fourth day in Galle.
Sri Lanka remain 260 runs adrift on a wearing surface, and although the hosts would have to score the highest-ever fourth innings total at the venue as well as break their own record for the highest fourth-innings chase, Atapattu has not ruled out victory yet.
"It's a challenging total," he said. "A team hasn't gone past 300 in the fourth innings at this venue, but we've got a team inside the dressing room who're willing to fight. That I can guarantee you. We're aiming to get the amount of runs but we'll fight to get through the first session tomorrow and see where we'll be placed at."
Sri Lanka faced a first-innings deficit of 163, and the only time a side has overturned a deficit of that size at the venue, was when Australia defeated Sri Lanka in 2004, after the hosts had scored 161 more runs in the first innings. The highest successful fourth innings chase in Galle is 96, but Sri Lanka will take heart that their highest chase of 352 also came against South Africa.
"I haven't seen that stat, but that is something I'll look into and probably have in the dressing room for all of us to be motivated," Atapattu said. "It's good to know that people have done it, but even if someone hasn't done it - it doesn't mean that you can't do it.
"It's all in the mind and how you think and the confidence levels. In a situation when you have the whole day to get the runs - don't get me wrong, it's not easy or guaranteed with the attack they have - but there is a chance. It's a bold declaration from Amla, encouraging us to go for our shots.
"Their bowlers might have a few more chances from our batsmen, going for shots. After the first innings when South Africa got to 255 on the first day, for the game to be poised at this position, is a credit to both teams and how they've played."
Atapattu also suggested the Galle surface remained a good one for batting, despite its history of taking extravagant turn. South Africa scored 206 at over four runs an over on Saturday - though they did lose six wickets - and Sri Lanka reached 110 for 1 by stumps, going at well over three runs an over.
"This wicket has turned square when Muttiah Muralitharan bowled here and he would have turned it square on any wicket. Some of us had been misled. Yes the wicket is good and the batsmen have adapted, used their feet, swept, reserve swept, handled situations, and handled bowlers differently, because there's no bowler called Murali. He would have been in a different proposition had he been here."
Despite the optimism, Atapattu was also sober in his assessment of the challenges his team would face on the final day, particularly in the form of reverse swing and spin. Imran Tahir, South Africa's No.l spinner, would appear one of their primary hopes for victory.
"It could be anybody from that attack tomorrow that poses a major threat. They're all quality bowlers. For a legspinner, I believe that he [Tahir] can come into the game at any time on a track like that, when somebody has the variety that he has. We will play with respect and look to put the bad ball away."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando