South Africa 82 for 0 (Dippenaar 46*) trail Sri Lanka 486 (Jayawardene 237, Vaas 69, Pollock 4-48) by 404 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Mahela Jayawardene on the way to 237, which tightened Sri Lanka's grip on the game © AFP

South Africa began the second day of the opening Test at Galle full of hope after their late double-wicket strike with the new ball the previous evening. The match was intriguingly poised with Sri Lanka at a shaky 279 for 7, but Mahela Jayawardene, with help from Chaminda Vaas, powered Sri Lanka into the box seat with a magnificent 237. A few hours later, South Africa had their backs firmly to wall and, at the close, they were 82 without loss, needing another 205 runs just to avoid the follow-on.

Prior to the start of play, Sri Lanka's players had spoken about reaching a total of 350 on what they knew was a tricky pitch, desperately slow and offering extravagant turn. Muttiah Muralitharan had been an excitable chatterbox in the dressing-room ever since Nicky Boje's gentle left-armers started to turn square on Thursday. But, even with the early-morning cloud promising a smidgen of swing, the pitch remained a back-breaker for the pace bowlers.

Jayawardene, resuming at 116, was in heavenly form all day. After playing himself in meticulously and patiently, and negotiating the key threat of Shaun Pollock - who was used with excessive early-season care, bowling only four overs in the morning and eight in afternoon - Jayawardene clicked into top gear. There were slow-motion pulls in front of square, elegant lofted off-drives, and a couple of deft deflections.

Vaas, quite rightly, did not settle merely for a supportive role, an unnatural style of play for him that has led to his downfall in the past. Indeed, it was Vaas who kicked off the flow of boundaries, with a meaty cover-drive off Pollock. He too was solid and largely untroubled by the South African bowlers, who grew increasingly weary.

The closest they came to a wicket in the morning was a mistimed lofted drive from Vaas, which bounced a few yards short of a diving Pollock at mid-off. Much later on, when Jayawardene had 190, the South Africans appealed confidently for a possible gloved catch behind, but replays showed that the ball had struck his arm.

The partnership grew and grew, first breaking Sri Lanka's record against South Africa, and then going past their best eighth-wicket stand in Tests, the 146 of Thilan Samaraweera and Upul Chandana against Zimbabwe here in 2001-02. By the time Vaas finally fell for 69, drilling a high catch to Nantie Hayward at mid-off, they had put on 170 in 279 balls.

Jayawardene, though, continued to shine. After passing his previous-best at Galle, a brace of 167s - against New Zealand in 1997-98 and South Africa in 2000 - he surged to 200 with a flood of boundaries, slog-sweeping Boje high over midwicket and then dancing down the pitch to bring up the landmark with a straight six. After eight-and-a-half hours of patient application, he started to show off to his girlfriend in the crowd with a blaze of elegant strokes.

Chaminda Vaas: gave Jayawardene valuable support © AFP

But on the verge of passing his career-best score - 242 against India at Colombo's Sinhalese Sports Club in 1998-99 - he fell, trapped lbw just minutes before tea by Hayward (486 for 9). Next ball, Murali's wild swing suggested that he was ready for a long bowl in the final session.

A virus which laid low Graeme Smith, the captain and only specialist opener, did not help South Africa's predicament. Smith had battled raging fever throughout the night and was unable to take the field or bat. South Africa were then left to face a rearguard action with two stand-in openers, Boeta Dippenaar and Martin van Jaarsveld.

However, there was no early freefall. Vaas, swinging the ball in, and Farveez Maharoof, who bowled a tight line, beat the bat a couple of times, but the new ball was successfully negotiated. Even the early arrival of Murali, in the 11th over, did not herald a breakthrough, and the South African dressing-room started to breathe more easily as the score passed 50 in the 20th over.

Indeed, the final wicketless session will have given the South Africans hope. Murali was not the threatening force that he is with the doosra, a delivery he will not use until the completion of the ICC's research into spin bowling in November, and both Dippenaar and van Jaarsveld were relatively comfortable. But they will need much more of the same to leave Galle without suffering the sort of crushing defeat they experienced in 2000.