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South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test Day 1 – 5 Talking Points

South Africa
South African batsman JP Duminy raises his bat as he celebrates scoring half- century (50 runs) during the first day. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka came into the Test series against South Africa as overwhelming underdogs but will be pretty happy with the way things panned out on the opening day of the first Test at Port Elizabeth. Courtesy a brilliant spell by Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka finished Day 1 with their noses slightly ahead of the hosts.

Winning the toss South Africa went off to a solid start as openers Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook shared a 104 run partnership for the opening wicket. Both the openers fell to Lakmal in quick succession. After a long vigil at the crease without impressing much Hashim Amla too gave away his wicket cheaply to Lakmal/.

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Later in the day it was Rangana Herath who chipped in with couple of crucial wickets to peg back the hosts. Lakmal added one more to his tally before the end of the day’s play by dismissing Proteas captain Faf du Plessis to leave the hosts in a precarious situations. South Africa ended the day’s play at 267/6.

1.  Solid opening partnership

Opting to bat, the Proteas got off to a decent start with openers Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook. The left-hand right-hand combination which didn’t work during their recent series triumph over Australia at last paid rich dividends as the pair shared a solid opening partnership of 104 runs. Despite employing a defensive approach both Cook and Elgar looked in complete control of proceedings and rotated the strike to keep the scoreboard going.

Also read- SA v SL, 1st Test Day 1, Review: Late strikes get Sri Lanka back in the game

Both the batsmen played some delightful strokes despite being troubled by Suranga Lakmal during his opening spell. Cook completed his half-century by flicking a harmless delivery from Dhananjaya de Silva towards the fine leg. It was a beautifully paced innings by the hard working right-hander. Elgar fell five runs short of what would have been a well-deserved half century. Cook too gave away his wicket to Lakmal to leave the hosts at the score of 104/2.

2. Hashim Amla’s lack of footwork

Without a doubt, Hashim Amla is one of the modern day legends of the game but off late he hasn’t been in the best of touch. His footwork hasn’t been ideal and going by his past records and approach it will surely affect him some way or the other. Though Amla stood in the crease for 76 balls but even during his short venture at the crease he looked disorganised and was finding hard to take his feet towards the line of the ball. He mistimed several deliveries and failed to hit the middle of the bat on most occasions.

The mainstay of the Proteas line-up was beaten several times by Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep before eventually falling to Lakmal. The right-hander went after a wide delivery which swung just enough to take the outside edge of his bat and was gleefully accepted by Dinesh Chandimal standing behind the stumps.

3. JP Duminy’s fluent half-century

Duminy looked in great touch from the outset. He played some delightful shots up front and made batting look ridiculously easy at the St. Georges Park in Port Elizabeth. He went off to a sensational start and scored his first 34 runs in a mere 25 balls hitting 8 boundaries in the process. He played the cover drive of the pacers to perfection and found the gaps in regular intervals.

He raced to his fifty of 73 balls and looked in complete control of proceedings. With captain Faf du Plessis by his side the hosts would have hoped to consolidate their strong position but veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath had other ideas. The spinner bowled a full delivery outside the off stump and Duminy attempted a conventional sweep. He missed the ball completely which hit him adjacent to the stumps. Despite reviewing the decision, the hawk-eye suggested that the ball would have gone on to hit the leg-stump. Duminy’s departure was bound to be a huge blow for the hosts especially after the southpaw looked in a scintillating touch.

4. Suranga Lakmal’s brilliant spell

Lakmal was the most impressive of the Sri Lankan bowlers. He kept on persisting with a nagging outside the stump line which paid him rich dividends. Though he was unable to make a breakthrough in his opening spell but came back strongly in his 2nd spell to remove the top 3 including openers Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar and mainstay in the middle-order Hashim Amla.

The first to fall was Stephen Cook who was removed by a superb delivery from the lanky speedster. The ball pitched outside the off stump in a good length area which moved away towards the fourth stump. Cook was apparently squared up in an attempt to flick the ball and closed his bat face early. It took the outside edge and was safely pouched by Chandimal behind the stumps.

Lakmal was quick to add one more to his tally by removing Dean Elgar in quick succession. The ball pitched in the 5th stump area and swung just enough to take the outside edge from the flashing blade of Elgar. It would have been a regulation catch for the 1st slip fielder but Chandimal got across and took a brilliant catch to send him back.

The whole-hearted fast bowler was not finished yet and dismissed Hashim Amla cheaply after troubling him on a consistent basis. The right-hander went after a wide delivery which swung just enough to take the outside edge of his bat and was gleefully accepted by Dinesh Chandimal standing behind the stumps.

Later in the day, Lakmal dismissed the Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis to finish with 4/. It was again a good length delivery which pitched and moved away just enough to take the outside edge of du Plessis.

5. Rangana Herath’s late strikes

Veteran spinner Rangana Herath bowled pretty well up front but was unable to back it up with wickets. He breached the defence of the bat on a number of occasions but was still unlucky during his opening spell. Herath came back strongly during the final session of the day by dismissing JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma in quick succession.

Duminy who looked in ominous touch fell to a full-length delivery of Herath. The ball pitched in line and hit Duminy adjacent to the stumps while he attempted a full-fledged sweep. Though Duminy went for a review but replays suggested that the ball would have gone on to crash the leg stump. Giving the form Duminy was looking in, it was a really important wicket at a crucial juncture of the game.

He followed it up with Bavuma’s wicket bowling a flatter trajectory delivery which went on with the arm after pitching. Though the umpire ruled it in favour of the batsman but had to overturn his decision as the hawkeye showed the ball would have crashed onto leg stump.

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