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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
July 24, 2014
Sri Lanka 305 for 5 (Jayawardene 140*, Mathews 63) v South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Fernando: Jayawardene held Sri Lanka together
The last time Mahela Jayawardene batted against South Africa in a Test at the SSC, he made 374, the highest score ever made by a right-handed batsman in Test cricket. Today he walked off to applause for an unbeaten 140 as his 34th Test century held together Sri Lanka's innings after Angelo Mathews won the toss on what looks another SSC batting beauty. It was his 11th Test hundred at his home venue - as many as the likes of Saeed Anwar, Ravi Shastri, Nathan Astle and Dean Jones each managed over their entire Test careers - and extended his lead at the top of the list for most Test runs scored at a single venue.
With Jayawardene passing 5000 first-class runs at the SSC, it might seem like it was business as usual, but it was anything but in the morning session. The peculiar sights early on included an elderly man in the stands keeping cool with a tiny portable fan on his chest, the run-machine Kumar Sangakkara getting a golden duck at a ground he thrives on, the South Africa slip cordon putting down two fairly straightforward chances and Sri Lanka motoring along at well above six an over for a big chunk of the first session of the Test.
What was not unexpected in the first session was Dale Steyn again showing he can cause damage on any surface in the world, whether a minefield or a highway. He banged it in in the fifth over had Upul Tharanga fending a catch to the keeper.
Steyn followed that up with another short ball to Sangakkara, who responded with a weak pull straight to Imran Tahir at square leg. Sangakkara walked off practising the pull, much like several England batsmen on the final day at Lord's earlier this week.
With Vernon Philander relentlessly probing around off stump, Sri Lanka looked shaky. Kaushal Silva was dropped at third slip off Philander by Alviro Petersen and Jayawardene's start-stop approach for a single at cover almost resulted in Silva's run-out.
Steyn got only a four-over spell with the new ball though, and once Philander's fruitless first stint was over, Sri Lanka cashed in against the spinners. The SSC is a track where batsmen are advised to give the first session to the bowlers, and then capitalise on the flatness of the surface. Jayawardene and Silva didn't have to wait that long. The boundaries were incessant, as full tosses were swatted to midwicket, full balls were driven away. Fifty-runs came in eight overs, and the early pressure had evaporated.
Silva had a reprieve early on against Duminy, when his edge whizzed past the stationary AB de Villiers at first slip. With minutes to go before lunch, Silva gave de Villiers another chance, and this time his streaky innings was over.
Another quick wicket, and South Africa would have had a crack at Sri Lanka's inexperienced lower-middle order. With Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, two youngsters in whom Sri Lanka had placed immense amount of faith, dropped, the batsmen to follow were Kithuruwan Vithanage and debutant Niroshan Dickwella. That breakthrough didn't arrive though, as Jayawardene and the in-form Angelo Mathews put on a century stand.
They took no risks, but still scored at a brisk pace, latching on to the regular bad ball. The closest South Africa came to a wicket in the second session was when an off-balance de Villiers couldn't fire in a direct hit just before drinks. The session ended with Jayawardene top-edging a boundary to fine leg to bring up his hundred, one of the rare false strokes in a typically polished innings, where he once again demonstrated the value of timing, touch and placement. A nonchalant upper cut over the slips off Morne Morkel was among the highlights of his innings.
Mathews picked up most of his runs with drives and nudges to the leg side, though he also pounced on the many short and wide deliveries on offer, crashing them past point. With the attack fading, Mathews went for one more cut when Duminy dropped short, only to edge through to the keeper. Once again the part-time offspinner had delivered an unexpected breakthrough for South Africa.
Sri Lanka have picked three specialists spinners, clearly expecting plenty of turn as the match progresses, but South Africa's lone specialist spinner had another rough outing. The number of poor deliveries Tahir bowled - either half-trackers or loopy full tosses - were too many to be excused as the usual difficulty legspinners have in controlling the ball. South Africa need him to lift his game in the second innings, when the surface will have more in it for him.
It was the quicks who caused trouble towards the end of the day, with Vithanage stuttering against a short-ball barrage from Steyn before being undone by a bouncer from Morne Morkel. Dickwella faced a testing time before stumps, but he survived with the help of the DRS.
Sri Lanka's batsmen still have work to do on the second day, but who better to bank on at the SSC than Jayawardene?
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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