At the start of the second day in Durban, there was a sense of inevitability. Despite a fine show on the opening day, a lot depended on how the Sri Lankan batsmen fared against the power-packed South African bowling line-up. As a familiar script unfolded, the hosts nosed ahead in the contest as Dale Steyn’s four-wicket haul kept Sri Lanka to just 191. Having gained a handy 44-run first innings lead, South Africa ended the day on 126 for 4 – with an overall lead of 170.
Despite posting a modest total, South Africa were always in the game with their pace-heavy bowling attack. The slide for Sri Lanka started very early in the day as six wickets fell in the first session. Steyn started the downfall when he trapped Oshada Fernando in front before Vernon Philander pinned the visitors on the mat. Fernando was unlucky to be adjudged lbw, as replays suggested the ball was missing leg stump. Aleem Dar got the decision wrong and so did Dimuth Karunaratne who convinced his partner not to review the decision.
The Sri Lankan captain was pinged in front in the very next over before Kusal Mendis edged Philander to second slip after striking some promising boundaries during his 24-ball 12. Niroshan Dickwella walked in with his side 76 for 4 but failed to get going before falling to a short ball from Duanne Olivier. If the poor application shown by the top order wasn’t enough, Dhananjaya de Silva’s shot in the last over before lunch was enough to show the fragility of the Sri Lankan batting.
De Silva pulled a short one straight to fine leg with just two balls left in the first session as Sri Lanka slipped to 133 for 6. Suranga Lakmal didn’t last too long but with Kusal Perera attacking from one end, the runs continued to flow. Perera reached an aggressive half-century but fell for a 63-ball 51. Once the top order had been flushed out, the South African pacers bullied the lower-order with a barrage of short balls. Both Lasith Embuldeniya and Kasun Rajitha took blows on the body and on the helmet but offered some stern resistance that could put the top order to shame.
The pair batted for ten overs – to score 32 – and pushed the score past 180 to bring the deficit below 50. Rajitha was eventually run out, after some brisk work from Aiden Markram at short leg, before Kagiso Rabada cleaned up Embuldeniya. Steyn, who last picked up a five-wicket haul against New Zealand in 2016, almost had his 27th five-fer but saw Dean Elgar drop a dolly at gully. Steyn got Rajitha to fend at one and lob a simple catch towards Elgar. The fielder went for an unnecessary dive and eventually grassed the opportunity.
Sri Lanka, however, did well once again with the ball to keep the hosts in check. Markram raced to 28 off 30 before he edged a wide one to slip while Hashim Amla slapped a shortish delivery to gully. Temba Bavuma was trapped in front by Embuldeniya with a straight one to leave South Africa wobbling at 77 for 3. While Faf du Plessis stayed unbeaten on 25; Elgar threw his wicket away as the lead approached 150. Trying to take on Embuldeniya, the opener smashed one back to the bowler who held on to a sharp catch.
A total of 13 wickets fell in the second day as South Africa pushed their lead past 150. Sri Lanka, however, with the four wickets ensured that the hosts were on their toes heading into the third day with the only bowlers to follow.
South Africa 1st innings 235 (Quinton de Kock 80, Temba Bavuma 47, Faf du Plessis 35; Vishwa Fernando 4 for 62, Kasun Rajith 3 for 68)
Sri Lanka 1st innings
Dimuth Karunaratne lbw Vernon Philander 30
Lahiru Thirimanne c Quinton de Kock b Dale Steyn 0
Oshada Fernando lbw Dale Steyn 19
Kusal Mendis c Faf du Plessis b Vernon Philander 12
Kusal Perera c (Sub) b Dale Steyn 51
Niroshan Dickwella c Dale Steyn b Duanne Olivier 8
Dhananjaya de Silva c Duanne Olivier b Kagiso Rabada 23
Suranga Lakmal c Aiden Markram b Dale Steyn 4
Lasith Embuldeniya c Dale Steyn b Kagiso Rabada 24
Kasun Rajitha Run Out Aiden Markram 12
Vishwa Fernando Not Out 1
Extras 3b 3lb 0nb 0pen 1w 7
Total (59.2 overs) 191 all out
Fall of Wickets : 1-19 Thirimanne, 2-51 Fernando, 3-53 Karunaratne, 4-76 Mendis, 5-90 Dickwella, 6-133 de Silva, 7-142 Lakmal, 8-152 Perera, 9-184 Rajitha, 10-191 Embuldeniya
Bowling: Dale Steyn 20-7-48-4, Vernon Philander 10-2-32-2, Kagiso Rabada 12.2-2-48-2, Duanne Olivier 13-2-36-1, Keshav Maharaj 3-0-16-0, Dean Elgar 1-0-5-0
South Africa 2nd innings
Dean Elgar c&b Lasith Embuldeniya 35
Aiden Markram c Kusal Mendis b Kasun Rajitha 28
Hashim Amla c Lahiru Thirimanne b Vishwa Fernando 16
Temba Bavuma lbw Lasith Embuldeniya 3
Faf du Plessis Not Out 25
Quinton de Kock Not Out 15
Extras 0b 2lb 1nb 0pen 1w 4
Total (37.0 overs) 126-4
Fall of Wickets : 1-36 Markram, 2-70 Amla, 3-77 Bavuma, 4-95 Elgar
To Bat : Philander, Maharaj, Rabada, Steyn, Olivier
Bowling: Suranga Lakmal 9-1-25-0, Vishwa Fernando 9-1-32-1, Kasun Rajitha 7-1-31-1, Lasith Embuldeniya 12-1-36-2