The Castle Lager Proteas were unable to take full advantage of Dale Steyn’s two-wicket opening burst as veteran Mahela Jayawardene took centre stage on the opening day of the second Test match at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo,, on Thursday.
Jayawardene, in spite of looking tired and suffering apparent cramp towards the close of play, finished the day unbeaten on 140 (225 balls, 16 fours and a six) as Sri Lanka closed on 305/5 off 86 overs after winning the toss on an excellent batting surface.
Jayawardene hardly looked uncomfortable at any stage of his innings apart from his opening run which was risky and would have resulted in the run out of either himself or his partner, Kaushal Silva, had there been a direct hit at either end.
The Proteas will need to get him out quickly when he resumes on the second day as he has a penchant for going on to big totals. Of his 34 centuries, 15 have been in excess of 150, including seven double centuries and one triple century.
Although Sri Lanka hold the upper hand, it wasn’t that bad a day for the Proteas who still have a chance of bowling the home side out for under 400. They are only one wicket away from the tail with a new ball that is only four overs old and they will fancy their chances if they can get an early breakthrough.
Steyn gave the Proteas a perfect start when he had Upal Tharanga caught behind off the glove in his third over and then had Kumar Sangakkara caught off a miscued pull to square leg off his next delivery. He had to wait until the next over to produce a hat trick delivery but Jayawardene had no trouble in keeping it out.
With only three seamers in his line-up and committed to his policy of operating his quicks in short spells, Hashim Amla had to turn to a double spin attack after the first hour and Sri Lanka broke the pressure with the next five overs going for six runs apiece.
As has often happened in the past it was the golden arm of JP Duminy that kept the Proteas in the hunt as he dismissed Silva (44 off 73 balls, 7 fours) just before lunch after a third-wicket partnership of 99 and then did it again when he dismissed Angelo Mathews (63 off 135 balls, 6 fours) after a fourth-wicket stand of 131.
This latter partnership looked particularly threatening as both players scored 48 runs in the second session that produced 97 runs after the 115 runs in the morning session. Sri Lanka closed the day with a third session that produced 93 runs for the loss of two wickets, so they could claim to have won two out of three sessions.
Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander both bowled a lot better than their figures suggest. Morkel finally got a wicket towards the end of the day while Philander had Silva dropped at third slip in the first session and impressed with the way he maintained pressure from his end.
Amla’s policy of using his seamers in short spells is essential in back-to-back series with Steyn only bowling 15 overs and Philander and Morkel 16 each and it may well pay dividends when the critical second day gets underway.