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

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL -

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.

Gian­luigi Guer­cia / AFP

South African cap­tain Faf du Plessis, left, is over­joyed af­ter Kag­iso Rabada dis­missed Kusal Mendis on Day 4.

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