Gutless Proteas batting display leaves Sri Lanka in charge

Sri Lanka lead South Africa by 365 runs with seven second-innings wickets in hand at the end of the second day at the SCC, in what looks sure to be a comprehensive lambasting of the visitors.

Keshav Maharaj’s 9 for 129 might have been the second best ever figures by a South African but South Africa are well and truly on the ropes.

Today it would have been extremely difficult to convince a man from outer space that South Africa is the world’s second best Test side and that Sri Lanka are ranked sixth, as the visitors were made to look like boys pitted against men. This is the sharp end of playing away from home in the cruel old game of Test match cricket.

South Africa were embarrassed with bat and ball in hand as Sri Lanka outplayed them throughout the second day of this Test match, indeed a day that bore enjoyment for only the home side.

Sri Lanka began the day on 277 for 9 and the number nine and eleven batsmen made merry against the likes of Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and even Dale Steyn.

Disdain is a word that came to mind as Akila Dananjaya (43 not out) and Rangana Herath (35) clobbered some of the world’s best bowlers around the Sinhalese Sports Club. The last stand put on 74 runs and made a mockery of the South African effort that would follow.

South Africa batted second after the Sri Lankans had put up a stiff 338 all out on the morning of the second day. By lunch the visitors had been reduced to as poor a start as one might imagine and languished at 19 for three, with Dean Elgar (0), Aiden Markram (7) and Theunis de Bruyn (3) sitting uncomfortably back in the pavilion. The same fellows that had administered the pain of the morning’s last-wicket stand, were the perpetrators of the initial onslaught.

Hashim Amla (19) and Faf du Plessis were then to put on South Africa’s only show of resistance as they mustered 55 runs for the fourth wicket. However, the lull in Sri Lankan terrorism was not to last. Soon it would be time for the bloodthirsty Dilruwan Perera and Dananjaya show and it would not disappoint the hungry Sri Lankan crowd.

Six wickets fell to the assassins in the short space of 54 runs as South Africa showed that their ineptitude against Sri Lankan spin in Galle was no chance event. Dananjaya would finish with figures of 5 for 52 and Perera 4 for 40 as Dickwella had no need to call for even a fourth bowler. South Africa were bowled out for a paltry 124 and failed to avoid the follow-on target but Dickwella et al were enjoying the onslaught so much that they decided to be in no hurry about it and make certain of a slow and satisfying kill.

Sri Lanka came out to bat again with a 214-run first innings lead and, without a care in the world, they continued to show up the toothlessness of South Africa’s attack. To describe the visitors effort as limp might be generous. The batsmen had had time to contemplate the action of Maharaj and the quicks as friendly as a Sri Lankan cocktail barman, serving up all sorts of delicious offerings.

Maharaj eventually claimed two scalps, those of Gunathilaka (61) and de Silva (0), which means that he now has match figures of 11 for 219. The soft run out of Mendis (19) meant that Sri Lanka finished the second day on 151 for three. 365 runs is more than they could possibly ever need but with three days left in the match and very little rain about, the home side will be in no hurry to declare.

Nobody ever said that touring the subcontinent was easy. I know that cricket schedules are full but South Africa has had no international cricket for four months – might they not have considered arriving here a bit early and playing a few warm up matches?

By Nicholas Sadleir