Hashim Amla led South Africa’s fightback after Sri Lanka struck three early blows on the second day of the second Test match at Kingsmead cricket ground in Durban, South Africa, yesterday.
South Africa were 100 for three at tea in reply to a Sri Lankan first innings of 338 in which Thilan Samaraweera made a century and Marchant de Lange took seven wickets on debut.
Amla struck a fluent 52 not out and dominated an unbeaten third-wicket stand of 73 with AB de Villiers (23 not out). The pair came together after South Africa lost their first three wickets for 27 runs.
De Lange’s figures of seven for 81 were the best recorded by any bowler in Test matches this year and put him at the top of an extraordinary crop of eight bowlers who have taken five or more wickets in an innings in their first Test match this year.
Samaraweera made 102 before he was last man out. He became only the second Sri Lankan to hit a Test century in South Africa, joining Hashan Tillekeratne, who made 104 at Centurion in 2002 to 2003.
Samaraweera and Rangana Herath frustrated the South African bowlers at the start of the day, adding 46 to the overnight total of 289 for seven, with Samaraweera batting watchfully to reach his 13th Test century off 265 balls.
After Samaraweera reached his hundred, Herath top-edged a slog against De Lange and was caught by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for 30. He had an escape on seven when he played a similar shot against Morne Morkel and was caught by the bowler, only for Morkel to be no-balled after umpire Richard Kettleborough asked for a review. It was the second time in the series Morkel was denied a wicket after a check on where his front foot had landed.
The tall, strongly built De Lange quickly wrapped up the innings, having Chanaka Welegedera caught at short-leg fending off a vicious bouncer before Samaraweera was caught at deep cover.
Only two South Africans have achieved better figures on debut than De Lange, who was a late replacement for the injured Vernon Philander, who also made an exceptional start to his Test career, with four five-wicket hauls in his first three matches, including five for 15 on debut against Australia.
The best figures by a South African on debut are eight for 64 by Lance Klusener against India in Kolkata in 1996 to 1997.
Chanaka Welegedera had a hand in all three South African dismissals, which came at a cost of five runs. South Africa reached 22 for no wicket without Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph looking in any trouble before Rudolph played a loose hook against Thisara Perera and was caught at long-leg by a diving Welegedera.
Welegedera then struck twice with his left-arm pace bowling, having South African captain Graeme Smith caught behind for 15 and Jacques Kallis caught at second slip without scoring.
Amla and De Villiers had to rebuild, but Amla did so with sweetly timed strokes, mainly on the off side, as he reached 50 off 69 balls with 10 fours.