Sri Lanka in SA

Sangakkara lights up Durban

2011-12-28 17:45
Kumar Sangakkara (Gallo)
Durban - Kumar Sangakkara, the world’s No 1 rated batsman, completed one of the last missing milestones on his outstanding CV when he hit a maiden Test century on South African soil at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Wednesday.

It was his 28th century overall at the game’s premier level and was primarily responsible for the visitors stretching their overall lead to 426 runs by the close of business on day three.

The Proteas have at last got down to the Sri Lankan tail and it is likely that Tillekeratne Dilshan will allow his lower-order to bat out the innings and set the Proteas a target in the region of 450 runs with more than five sessions in which to take the necessary 10 wickets to square the series.

It is a target that has never been achieved in the history of the game before although England did make a monumental 654/5 in the notorious drawn ‘Timeless Test’ at the same venue in 1939.

The Proteas’ most successful runs chase has been the 414 they made against Australia at Perth in 2008 while the West Indies hold the world record with the 418 they made against Australia. The Proteas did chase down 340 to beat Australia at Kingsmead in 2002.

Sangakkara took advantage of a let-off on three with the total still the overnight 7/1 when he edged Morne Morkel and Mark Boucher took off too late to have any chance of making a one-handed take. The ball went through to first slip Graeme Smith who had virtually no chance of completing the dismissal.

Instead of having an aggregate of less than 10 runs for four completed innings in the Sunfoil Series Sangakkara went on to share important partnerships of 94 off 130 balls with the first innings batting hero, Thilan Samaraweera, and 104 for the sixth wicket off 163 balls with the impressive debutant, Dinesh Chandimal, who completed his second half-century of the match.

Sangakkara reached his century off 161 balls with 13 fours. He surprisingly became becalmed in the final session before holing out to Smith in the deep off the bowling of Imran Tahir.

The Proteas’ attack performed reasonably well considering they had a two-and-a-half hour afternoon session following the loss of the day’s first hour to rain with Dale Steyn (3/54 in 16 overs) leading the way.

Marchant de Lange continued his impressive debut with the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene and it says much for the threat he offers that he bowled only three balls in his final spell before the umpires decided conditions were too dangerous for play to continue.

The odds are obviously stacked against the Proteas but the ball is firmly in the batsmens’ court to undo the damage of the first innings. There will have to be at least two centuries from the top six as there were from Smith and AB de Villiers in the successful runs chase at Perth.

The biggest positive is undoubtedly Smith’s unparalleled record in the history of the game in chasing down difficult fourth innings totals. He has been involved in five of South Africa’s top seven and the other two happened well before his time in 1906 and 1950! But he was involved at Kingsmead against Australia (2002, his second Test match), against New Zealand at Wellington (2004), England at Edgbaston (2008), Australia at Perth (2008) and Australia at Sahara Park Newlands (2011). In four of those five fourth innings he made centuries.

The Proteas will need more of the same again!

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