South Africa keep lead after Steyn five-for

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Fast bowler Dale Steyn defied conditions primed for low and slow turn, as South Africa retained command on day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Friday.

Fast bowler Dale Steyn defied conditions primed for low and slow turn, as South Africa retained command on day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium.

Expectation demanded leg-spinner Imran Tahir and burgeoning slow bowlers JP Duminy and Dean Elgar play pivotal roles on Friday, but Steyn instead stepped to the fore with telling figures of five for 50 in a total.

Resuming on 30 without loss, in response to the Proteas 455 for declared built on the back of fine centuries from Duminy and Elgar, the Sri Lankans sported high hopes of a gathering a first-innings lead.

A struggling score of 283 for nine, though, has only reduced the deficit to 172. While the follow-on has been avoided, plenty of foraging for runs awaits tail-ender Rangana Herath and the injured Shaminda Eranga come Saturday.

Steyn stole the proverbial show almost entirely and now has the most most wickets – 367 – among anyone currently part of a national Test XI. England's James Anderson is next in line, while India's Harbhajan Singh has not played the longest format of the international game since March 2013.

Right-armer Steyn, too, has joined former Australian great Dennis Lillee on a prolific 23 five-wicket hauls. One more and he will be level with England's Sydney Barnes – and another two will see Pakistani Wasim Akram's 25 surpassed.

Opener Upul Tharanga and captain Angelo Mathews were largely the only batsmen to successfully combat Steyn. Orchestrating a patient 83 and brisk 89 respectively, Tharanga and Mathews were particularly important after the cheap departures of the veteran Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Sangakkara and Jayawardene departed before the lunch break, unable to solidly negotiate the reverse swing extracted by Steyn and the Morne Morkel. Opener Kaushal Silva, wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal and the left-handed Lahiru Thirimanne suffered similar fates.

The South Africans were occasionally wasteful with the Decision Review System, with a characteristically overzealous Tahir needing no second offer to use a referral. Captain Hashim Amla will do well to temper Tahir's insistence with levelheaded realism across the remainder of this two-match series.

The second new ball hasn't been taken after exactly 100 overs – and probably won't on Saturday. Steyn's fine showing, though, might have come at a cost. The pace ace left the field shortly before the close of play, evidently nursing a minor injury.

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