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South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test Day 4 – 5 Talking Points

Kusal Mendis Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka batsman Kusal Mendis raises his bat. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Visitors Sri Lanka fought it out on the 4th day of the opening test against South Africa at Port Elizabeth and finished the 4th day’s play at 240/5, still needing 248 runs more to win the match. Though the target looks unrealistic with only 5 wickets in hand but as you know cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and anything can happen on the final day.

Beginning the day’s play at 352/5, South Africa added some quick runs before declaring their innings at 406/6 in 91 overs. Overnight batsmen Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Cock both chipped in with half-centuries. The Sri Lankan openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva batted superbly and defied the South African pacers for a long time. But after the fall of Karunaratne’s wicket in the form of a run out Sri Lanka lost 3 quick wickets.

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Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis again rebuild the innings with half-centuries but two late strikes of Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal surely tilted the match in favour of the hosts. With 248 runs still required for a historic win, the road seems a long way out for the visitors.

1. Du Plessis and de Cock chip in with half-centuries

Beginning the 4th day’s play at 352/5, the hosts added some quick runs to their overnight total before declaring their innings at 406/6. Du Plessis played some delightful shots in later stages of day 3 to remain unbeaten on 41. He reached his half-century by whipping a full and straight delivery of Dusmantha Chameera towards the mid-on.

De Cock who was there at the crease with du Plessis was batting on 42 at the start of the day’s play. He took on the bowlers and struck some lusty blows during the morning session to propel the Proteas to a total over 400. He reached his fifty by square driving a short delivery outside the off-stump of Suranga Lakmal for a couple of runs. De Cock fell to Rangana Herath on 69 as du Plessis decided to declare the innings giving Sri Lanka an unrealistic 488 runs victory target.

2. Sri Lanka start with a solid opening partnership 

Both openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva played with grit and determination and defied the star-studded South African bowling line-up for a long time. It was frustrating from the point of view of the hosts as both the Lankan batsmen looked unnerved and was hardly troubled by the Proteas.

Though the openers weren’t scoring at a brisk pace but it was enough to keep the hosts at bay. While Karunaratne was pretty impressive against both the spinners and the pacers but Kaushal Silva was consistently troubled by the short pitch stuff but somehow managed to defy the opponents. Their 87 runs partnership came to an end in the 33rd over when an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration cost Karunaratne badly as he was run out by JP Duminy. While Karunaratne made 43, Silva was dismissed by Rabada on 48.

3. Mendis and Mathews keep the hosts at bay

Talented top order batsman Kusal Mendis who came into the reckoning after scoring a match-winning 176 against Australia looked pretty impressive during his brief stay at the crease. Along with Angelo Mathews, the duo shared a 75 runs partnership for the 5th wicket before he gave away his wicket in an attempt to play the upper cut over the keeper’s head.

Mendis had a positive approach and played the ball on its merit. He duly punished all the bowlers whenever there was a boundary ball bowled and struck 9 fours during his innings of 58. He was eventually dismissed by Rabada.

Captain Mathews was at his fluent best and looked to take on the Proteas spinners. He struck some beautiful drives of Keshav Maharaj and looked well set for a big knock. Despite the fall of Mendis and Chandimal in quick succession, Mathews batted out the remaining overs to remain unbeaten on 58.

4. Kagiso Rabada continues his dominance

Though Kagiso Rabada has only two wickets to show for his efforts, he consistently troubled Kaushal Silva with a barrage of short deliveries but somehow the little fellow managed to defy them. He bowled the good length deliveries to perfection and swung the ball both ways and defeated the bat on numerous occasions but without any rewards.

Rabada finally got his reward in the 47th over when he dismissed Kaushal Silva with a beautiful inswinger which struck him adjacent to the stumps. The ball nipped back from a fullish length as Silva was not fully forward. Though he went for the review, replays suggested the ball would have crashed onto the leg stump.

His 2nd wicket came in the form of Kusal Mendis but not before the youngster had played a fluent innings of 58 runs. As he was in his delivery stride, Mendis decided to play an upper cut over the keeper. He gave himself room to hit over the keeper but failed to make a substantial contact and edged it straight to the keeper.

5. Keshav Maharaj’s long spell

Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled pretty well and picked up two wickets to derail the Sri Lankan progress in their 2nd essay. Maharaj came into the attack in the 23rd over and bowled in the right areas. The openers were beaten a couple of times here and there but also played some delightful shots against the left-arm spinner.

He got his first breakthrough in the 35th over when Kusal Perera attempted a square cut of a not so short delivery. The ball turned just a bit and took the outside edge of the flashing blade of Kusal Perera. Though Maharaj wasn’t unplayable by any stress of imagination but his consistent line and length paid him rich dividends.

After bowling 21 overs at a stretch Maharaja got his 2nd wicket during the final phase of the day. He tossed up a delivery on the middle and leg stump as Chandimal stepped out to clear the infield. He mistimed and inside edged it straight to Rabada fielding at the mid-on region. Maharaja’s long perseverance at last paid off for the bowler.

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