Rabada’s vital blows lay visitors low
Last recognised pair of Mathews and De Silva at crease on easing pitch with 248 runs adrift and five wickets in hand
Kagiso Rabada made two crucial breakthroughs as South Africa chipped away at a stubborn Sri Lankan batting order on the fourth day of the first Test at St George’s Park yesterday.
Sri Lanka were 240 for five at the close of play, with their last two recognised batsmen at the crease, after being set to make an improbable 488 to win.
South Africa will go into the final day, armed with a second new ball which is only three overs old, needing to break a stand between Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva in order to expose the Sri Lankan tailenders.
“The pitch has got better over the five days but hopefully the new ball can open it up for us tomorrow morning,” said South African left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who toiled for 29 overs, 22 of them in one spell, to take two wickets. Rabada twice dismissed set batsmen, on both occasions with the second ball of a new spell. He trapped Kaushal Silva leg before wicket for 48 with his second ball after tea.
Then, late on a hot afternoon, he broke a 75-run partnership between captain Mathews and Kusal Mendis. A fast, short delivery bowled from around the wicket induced an involuntary ramp shot by Mendis, who was caught behind by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
In contrast to the first innings, when they were bowled out for 205, with several batsmen playing poor strokes in seam-friendly conditions, South Africa had to work hard for their wickets on a pitch which had lost most of its earlier life and a few chances went begging, too.
It took a moment of hesitation to break an opening stand of 87 between Dimuth Karunaratne and Silva, who defied the South African bowlers for 145 minutes before Karunaratne was run out for 43 in the 33rd over.
The dismissal came after a sustained display of determination from the left-hander.
“The first 15 overs it was not easy to bat,” he said. “I had to leave the ball well.”
Two overs later Kusal Perera attempted an extravagant cut shot and was caught behind off Maharaj.
Silva and Mendis saw Sri Lanka through to tea before Rabada’s first breakthrough was followed by a fine partnership between Mathews and Mendis. Maharaj had Dinesh Chandimal caught at mid-on, with the batsmen charging down the wicket. He had been dropped by Stephen Cook at mid-off trying a similar shot five runs earlier. Mathews and De Silva saw out the day, with De Silva surviving on review after being given out leg before.
Earlier South African captain Faf du Plessis declared with his team on 406 for six after adding a quick 55 runs in 10.5 overs with De Kock (69) in a record sixth wicket partnership of 129 against Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced part of their fixtures for next season, with trips by Bangladesh, India and Australia all confirmed.
Bangladesh will play two Tests, three one-day internationals and two Twenty20 games in September and October 2017.
Australia will be in South Africa in February and March 2018 for four Tests, with exact dates still to be worked out.
India will likely travel in late 2017, although CSA did not announce dates for the tour involving all three formats.
South Africa normally host a Test series over the year-end holidays but there has been doubt as to whether India were willing to tour at that time.
South African captain Faf du Plessis, left, is overjoyed after Kagiso Rabada dismissed Kusal Mendis on Day 4.