Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day July 19, 2014

Atapattu confident of SL victory


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Willing to put up a fight - Atapattu

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on July 20, 2014, 11:38 GMT

    Congratulations to SA.! It shows how well Amla accessed our potential batting depth, against his bowlers on 4th & 5th day Galle deck! That is why he did not hesitate to give SL ample time (4 sessions) to score 370. He knew the target & the survival over 4 sessions were well beyond reach!

    The only positive thing that SL saw in this Test was, the long delayed recall of young Upul Tharanga to a National Squad! It instantly brought some relief to a team filled with Technically Brittle, Inexperienced youth among a very few experienced stalwarts about to retire! Among the young, only skipper Mathews found his feet against formidable sides. Without his contribution & Upul Tharanga`s valuable contribution, SL would have certainly faced an INNINGS DEFEAT against SA in the 1st Test!

  • Android on July 20, 2014, 3:07 GMT

    A SL victory is possible but it's gonna a feat. Wearing pitch, quality pace attack and adequate spinners will give SA the edge. I don't think playing for a draw is sensible. The best chance of survival is attack.

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2014, 1:53 GMT

    I agree with Mawan . Today if Sanga can continue his batting at least another hundred rest score can be done by the captain Mathews who is only reliable batsman next to Sanga. Other all batsmen are not in form and no sensible batting including Mahala senior player in the team, Any how Sanga playing well in this inning hope go for a double century so others can reach the target to win this match definitely, otherwise noway.

  • Chaz on July 19, 2014, 23:30 GMT

    If David Warner was in Sri Lanka, I doubt whether he could be even selected to the t 20 team. Sri Lanka always keeps capable batsman out and go with pedestrians. See how Kusal and Thisara are being considered !

  • Dummy on July 19, 2014, 19:10 GMT

    Wont an easy chase for SL as thahir th legspiner will try ball with more accuracy and styn can do some majic reverswing with older ball SL must score fast coz longer they wait greater the danger would be.

  • Dummy on July 19, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    Wont b an easy chase as legspiner thahir will try increase his accuracy and and No1 reverswing majic by styn with the old boll , SL must score fast , longer they wait greater the danger

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 18:35 GMT

    In spite of sitting pretty at 110 for 1, Sri Lanka has a steep mountain to climb if they are to win from this position. Mahela is not in good form although he fought hard to get some runs in England. Thirimanne is yet to play a decisive inning against quality opposition when it matters most. Chandimal has done that to a certain extent in the past. However, he is in a terrible mess right now as far as judgement is concerned on when to attack and when to defend. Beyond the pair at the wicket only Angelo Mathews can be counted as reliable. If this pair can remain at the wicket by mid afternoon or so Sri Lanka can start thinking of pushing for a win in the final session. Otherwise Sri Lanka should try to play out an honourable draw.

  • Android on July 19, 2014, 18:01 GMT

    Sri lanka must play tomorrow without hesitation and confidently, should try to attack every loose deliveries with saving wickets

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    260 in at least 90 is less than 3 an over, plus SL have 9 wickets in hand. If Mahela can find some form, and if Chandimal and Thirimanne can step up, a win is certainly possible.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    It should make for an exciting final day.

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