Galle - The Proteas will be looking to at least two of their senior batsmen to match the mastery of Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne if the visitors are to bid for a famous come-from-behind victory in the first Test match being played at Galle.
On the face of it the home side held an almost impregnable position at stumps on day two with an overall lead of 272 runs with six second innings wickets intact and a full three days remaining in which to force a result.
SCOREBOARD: Sri Lanka v South Africa - 1st Test
But a closer look at the scorecard reveals just what a dominant role the Sri Lankan opening batsman has played. He followed his unbeaten 158 in the first innings with an invaluable 60 (80 balls, 7 fours) in the second to give him a match aggregate of 218 out of the 398 runs Sri Lankan have made in total thus far.
Equally revealing is the fact that Faf du Plessis’ 49 (88 balls, 5 fours) is the next best effort with no other batsman on either side having reached even 30.
It will be no easy task to do this on a surface on which the spinners are playing an increasingly dominant role.
The three Sri Lankan spinners took 7 wickets between them in the Proteas first innings headed by Dilruwan Perera’s 4/46.
South Africa were bowled out for a paltry 129; their lowest ever score in Sri Lanka.
Keshav Maharaj, meanwhile, got back to his best form taking 3 of the 4 Sri Lankan wickets to have fallen so far in their second innings (3/27 in 16 overs).
The fourth wicket fell to Kagiso Rabada, giving him an impressive 5 wickets in the match to date.
Saturday’s morning session will be a key one as the Proteas clearly need to take the last 6 wickets as quickly as possible. This is underlined by the fact that the highest fourth innings total at this ground is exactly 300 (by Pakistan) and that was in a losing cause.
The Proteas highest fourth innings total in Sri Lanka is 251/7 when Jonty Rhodes and Clive Eksteen led a famous rearguard action at Moratuwa to secure a draw in the first ever Test between the two countries in 1993.
But with so much time left in this match a draw would be the most unlikely outcome at this stage.