Elgar ton is Proteas' saving grace in Galle

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Opening batsman Dean Elgar's fine century was the highlight of South Africa's otherwise disappointing performance on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.

Btsman Dean Elgar's fine century was the highlight of South Africa's otherwise disappointing performance on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.

Captain Hashim Amla's first toss away from the shadow of the retired Graeme Smith resulted in a prompt decision to bat first in conditions characteristically and historically primed for plenty of runs.

Elgar, assuming Smith's coveted berth at the top of the order in a full-time capacity, promised plenty for the future. Striking 11 boundaries and three sixes en route to a superb 103, the diminutive left-hander recorded the highest score by a South African opener in Sri Lanka – in a total of 268 for five.

The hard-hitting Herschelle Gibbs had amassed 92 at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo – against an attack featuring prolific trio Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas – in 2006.

The 27-year-old's opposition was arguably easier. The fit-again Suranga Lakmal threatened throughout, while fellow seamer Shaminda Eranga failed to rekindle the success enjoyed during a recent series win over England in the United Kingdom.

While Amla's choice to bat first was justified through the first and second session, the tea interval brought a marked turnaround. Lakmal's probing line gathered an edge from Elgar, Amla perished to veteran spinner Rangana Herath's teasing flight, half-centurion Faf du Plessis' forward defence was exposed by slow bowler Dilruwan Perera – and the stalwart AB de Villiers' off-stump was toppled by some sharp lateral movement.

Sitting pretty at 195 for one, the visitors duly slumped to 266 for five. Intriguingly opting to protect the left-handed JP Duminy, the South Africans promoted the young Quinton de Kock to six in the order – and deployed tail-ender Dale Steyn as a nightwatchman.

De Kock and Steyn will resume on 17 not out and an unbeaten zero respectively come Thursday, when a final total no smaller than 350 will suffice. The aim was largely to bat just once – and later have leg-spinner Imran Tahir exploit crumbling conditions. The Proteas, however, will have to readjust the plans.

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