Sri Lanka v South Africa, 2nd Test, SSC, 4th day July 27, 2014

South Africa set for final-day spin inquisition


South Africa 282 and 38 for 1 need another 331 runs to beat Sri Lanka 421 and 229 for 8 dec (Sangakkara 72, Mathews 63*, Morkel 4-45)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Angelo Mathews' outstanding year continued © AFP

Sri Lanka had one objective when the day began: score as quickly as possible and declare. They did exactly that as they rattled along at well above four runs an over - more than double what South Africa managed in the first innings - to swell the lead to 368, despite more than an hour being lost due to rain and bad light. In Galle, Sri Lanka had to chase 370 in 120 overs, while here they have a whole day to wheedle out the remaining nine wickets.

Yet again, Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews formed the bedrock of Sri Lanka's effort, with both making brisk half-centuries to extend their purple patches.

With South Africa having turned this game into a long slog for survival, their objective when the day began was to keep the run-rate down. Getting wickets was good, but not good enough if the Sri Lankan run-rate wasn't reined in. The longer Sri Lanka were out there before declaring or being bowled out, the shorter South Africa's batsmen would have to persevere. They hung around for more than four sessions in the first innings, but on a track that has worn down significantly more, it will be miraculous if they last nearly that long in the second.

Sri Lanka knew it as well, and began the morning with a bunch of boundaries. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander leaked 27 runs in the first four overs before restoring a semblance of control. Upul Tharanga eased the first ball of the day to the long-off boundary, and did the bulk of the early scoring before nicking one through to the keeper on 30.

A Morne Morkel slower ball accounted for the other opener, Kaushal Silva, and Imran Tahir had a reverse-sweeping Mahela Jayawardene dismissed for a rare duck at the SSC. That brought together Sangakkara and Mathews, who rushed the score along.

They were held back for an hour by the rain as the threatening clouds finally opened up at lunch. Every minute lost was a minute less for South Africa to survive, but once play resumed they were reminded of the troubles ahead.

Tahir, as usual, offered loads of full tosses, and when one of them was put away to fine leg by Sangakkara, it brought up his tenth 50-plus score of the year and highlighted how far away South Africa are from solving their spin problem. The next ball pointed out a more immediate worry. Tahir got the ball to explode off the rough, unsettling even the well-set Sangakkara. Given how accurate Herath is, that rough outside the left-hander's offstump is going to be regularly hit before the end of this game, and every time South Africa's batsmen are likely to be guessing what the ball will do.

Though bad light stopped play well ahead of the allowed close, South Africa's batsmen were given a clear idea of what to expect on the final day. For only the second time in their Test history, Sri Lanka opened with two spinners. Herath and Dilruwan Perera had the ball spinning and leaping, there were edges aplenty before Alviro Petersen popped a catch to silly point.

Dean Elgar was hit on the box by a ball that ripped in off the rough, the promoted Quinton de Kock was bemused when a delivery from Perera sharply changed direction outside off. De Kock decided the way to counter the situation was to play his strokes, unlike every South African batsman in this match, and finished the day on 21 off 31.

South Africa can draw major confidence from Johannesburg 2013 and Adelaide 2012 but neither of those great escapes came on tracks as hostile as the one they will face tomorrow. If South Africa do survive, they would have truly earned that No. 1 ranking.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sajith on July 28, 2014, 9:53 GMT

    @vikias mate, Your comment---"advance congratulations for SA, the TEST CHAMPIONS for winnings test series from India, the ODI CHAMPIONS"............what kind of fan would post a such childish comment like that to attempt to show his team is best......Grow up man...

  • N on July 28, 2014, 9:46 GMT

    Two spinners opening the bowling and and after almost 70 overs the fast bowlers have bowled only six. This is a shame. SL curators should try to prepare at least slightly more sporty pitches than dust bowls like these that deteriorate drastically on day 5. Even after all that, if SL can't take 10 second innings wickets, the spinners are really useless.

  • Terry on July 28, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    South African captain always stood like a big tree. His concentrations continues. Sri Lanka has to field well taking half chances. Specially Hasheem's half chances, one already gone begging. Essential to remove this big TREE as far as SL win is concerned. Duty of on field fighters and behind the scene gurus. Even with an unfamous draw Mathews,Sanga and Mahela are the happy chapmen of the tour of Hasheem.

  • first name on July 28, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    South africans only hope is Amla. If he sticks around a draw can be expected which would mean a first consecutive series win for SA.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2014, 8:50 GMT

    Srilanka beat England in England and now close to losing from SA in srilanka all thanks to 2 match test series at least a 3 match test series is required.At the same time in parallel universe India,England and Australia are playing upto 5 match test series.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    Poor umpiring shatters SL's hopes

  • Monoz on July 28, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    @vkias: Sorry to disappoint mate. It is not SSC, it is Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai has the highest drawn matches percentage followed by Green Park, Kanpur from Asia in tests. No SLn ground at top 10. SSC stays at the 12th place. i Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai - India 0.61; Green Park, Kanpur - India 0.57; Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore - Pakistan 0.55;Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad - Pakistan 0.54;Sardar Patel (Gujarat) Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad - India 0.50; Eden Gardens, Kolkata - India 0.48; Punjab C.A. Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh - India 0.45; Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi - India 0.43;National Stadium, Karachi - Pakistan 0.43;Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka -Bangladesh 0.41;M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore - India 0.40;Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo - Sri Lanka 0.35;filter=advanced;host=25;host=6;host=7;host=8;orderby=percentage_drawn;qualmin1=10;qualval1=matches;template=results;type=aggregate;view=ground#

  • Shameera on July 28, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    So far in this tour, win the toss and win the match

  • utopian on July 28, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    Herath is simply unplayable under these conditions. Much under-estimated, this finger-spinning wizard.

    Matthews effectively eliminated the only viable option against Herath by declaring slightly conservatively: otherwise trying to bludgeon the runs before 10 wickets fall would've been an option. People may criticize Matthews if the rain saves South Africa, but who can fault a man who is batting like him at the moment? Without him Sri Lanka wouldn't even have been in a position to square the series.

    So only two uncertainties remain: Will it rain? Will the Proteas' technique against spin hold for another few hours? (In other words, has Gary Kirsten had enough time with them? ;-)

  • Android on July 28, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    SA doing what they do best.