Opener Dean Elgar smashed a century before Sri Lanka pegged back South Africa with four key wickets late on the opening day of the first Test in Galle on Wednesday.
The visitors were cruising at one stage after a cracking 103 from Elgar and a sedate 80 from Faf du Plessis, but the hosts fought back in the final session to restrict South Africa to 268-5 at close of play.
Elgar, 27, hit 11 fours and three sixes in his 186-ball knock, but his dismissal immediately after the tea break triggered a mini-batting collapse that handed the advantage to the hosts.
“I felt our bowlers bowled really well on a batsman-friendly wicket,” said Sri Lanka’s bowling coach Chaminda Vaas.
“They kept their cool and bowled extremely well. Hopefully, now we can wrap it [South African innings] up in the first session tomorrow.”
Elgar was sent back by paceman Suranga Lakmal (2-29), who had the left-hander caught behind by wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.
Hashim Amla, leading the side for the first time in Test cricket, had a forgettable outing as a batsman and made just 11 after facing 36 balls.
Du Plessis holed out to Kaushal Silva off slow bowler Dilruwan Perera, and the in-form AB de Villiers (21) was bowled by Lakmal with the new ball in the penultimate over of the day.
The day belonged to Elgar, who shared a 70-run opening stand with Alviro Petersen (34) and another of 125 with Du Plessis for the second wicket.
Elgar, playing his 10th Test, reached his second century in style, dancing down the track to smack Perera (2-100) for a massive six over the fence.
The opener said the rest of the batsmen would have to work really hard because the wicket had already deteriorated quite considerably.
“We’d have loved to have been three-down at the end of the day,” said Elgar. “But we have batsmen in the shed who all know how to play their shots.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work, especially with the wicket deteriorating quickly.”
Elgar’s form bodes well for a side undergoing a transition after the retirements of Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis.
Du Plessis, batting at number three for the first time in 15 Tests, also appeared at ease against the bowling attack, which relied heavily on spin.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.
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