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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Pollock joins the 200 Club as Sri Lanka fold up

Shaun Pollock probably couldn't have hoped for a better Christmas present: his 200th Test wicket and a handsome first innings lead over Sri Lanka, both on the same day and both at his home ground of Kingsmead.

At the close of the third day of the first Castle Lager/MTN Test match, South Africa led by 251 with nine second innings wickets standing. It is a substantial lead and should lead to a declaration before the end of the fourth day. Whether South Africa can bowl Sri Lanka out a second time, however, is another question.

For the fourth time in as many matches, South Africa have been presented with a pitch that has died by the fourth day. On Thursday evening Pollock made it quite clear that the home team, as is their traditional right, have asked all along for wickets with a bit of pace and bounce.

"I'm not talking about big lateral movement," he said, "but something where the snicks will carry to slip. There would be more gaps in the field for the batsmen to play their shots, and it would probably be more interesting."

This message, added Pollock in a rider, seemed to be disappearing somewhere along the way. Quite why is anyone's guess, but there is a growing suspicion that the various Test unions are so terrified of matches not going the full five days that they don't want bowler-friendly pitches. The result has been matches that go the distance, or most of it anyway, but the cricket has tended to grind along.

Pollock also made the point that perhaps South Africa's bowlers haven't been given full credit for bowling New Zealand out twice in the two Test victories this summer and he has every right to believe this.

Again at Kingsmead South Africa were forced to play a waiting game until Sri Lanka eventually managed to lose their heads. The Sri Lankan first innings was a pitifully poor team effort consisting a huge third wicket stand and very little else. The first two wickets went for 2, the third wicket added 168 and the last eight wickets fell for 46.

As a result Sri Lanka's response to South Africa's 420 was a meagre 216. By the close of the third day the home team had reached 47 in their second innings for the loss of Boeta Dippenaar's wicket.

At least two of the Sri Lankans had something to feel proud of. Mahela Jayawardene fully deserved a Test century in making 98 before Lance Klusener got one to take off and brush the glove while Kumar Sangakkara provided excellent support with his maiden Test fifty, a polished and mature 74.

Around them, though, the rest of the batting was woeful with the next highest score being Romesh Kaluwitharana's 16.

It was, though, Pollock's day and the 27-year-old reached 200 victims after taking the new ball and finding the edge of Chaminda Vaas's bat with a wide half-volley. The wicket took him to 199 and Nuwan Zoysa became 200 when he tried an extravagant pull and miscued it up to Mfuneko Ngam at midwicket.

Muttiah Muralitharan was 201, but that was just a bonus as the innings folded.

Pollock's father Peter was there for a presentation after play as was uncle Graeme who, everyone agreed, was just a little tearful about it all. He had every right, of course.

The younger Pollock said that his father's tally of 116 wickets had been his first goal, and now he has reached a second landmark. He is, after Allan Donald, second on the list of South African wicket takers and, at 27, still has a few years ahead of him. The next target will be 300, but before then there's the matter of taking care of the Sri Lankan second innings. If the pitch continues to play low and slow, this could be a lot more difficult the second time around, especially if Sri Lanka's batsmen discover a little more application.