Rangana Herath took three wickets and was exceptional for Sri Lanka © AFP

Jul 28, 2014

The second Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa was placed on knife’s edge with the Protea skipper Hashim Amla holding fort at one end. Rangana Herath was exceptional and was well complemented by the spin attack. AB de Villiers and Amla stood like pillars and blocked out a majority of the session, heroically but one big session remains and the game is poised to head to a gripping final flourish.

With rain not playing spoilsport in the session, an intense and gripping session of Test cricket unfolded. In one of the most difficult pitches we have seen in recent times in world cricket. Amla and De Villiers’ powers of concentration were tested to the very limit. On one hand, Rangana Herath was menacing. After pinching the wicket of Alviro Petersen late in the day, Herath struck for the Sri Lankans yet again. Quinton de Kock, after a rather positive and gutsy stay at the crease perished after a hint of bounce scraped De Kock’s left glove and bobbed high in the air and Kithuruwan Vithanage took a safe catch at backward short-leg.

This bought Amla and Du Plessis at the crease and with Herath in full cry, the brilliant duo decided to drop anchor and make the bowlers wilt. The spinners were bowling in tandem and the batsmen had to use all their powers of concentration to block almost everything that was thrown at them. The ball was turning ferociously at this point and the battle was getting even more intense. To compound matters, Herath and Perera were going through their overs at breakneck speed. With men surrounding the bat like a pack of hungry wolves, the batsmen thrived under pressure. For nearly 40 overs, the Sri Lankas bowlers toiled in search of the elusive breakthrough. De Villiers and Amla were impregnable.

Then drama unfolded and the game had reached a tantalizing stratosphere. First, Rangana Herath dismisses AB de Villiers with an absolute peach and then new man Faf du Plessis is adjudged leg before. South Africa opted for a review and replays showed that it was missing the leg-stump by a mile. It was relief in the South African camp.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 421 (Mahela Jayawardene 165, Niroshan Dickwella 63; Vernon Philander 2 for 52) & 229 for 8 decl. (Upul Tharanga 30, Kumar Sangakkara 72, Angelo Mathews 63*; Morne Morkel 4 for 45, Dale Steyn 2 for 59) lead South Africa 282 (Faf du Plessis 36, Hashim Amla 139*, AB de Villiers 37; Dilruwan Perera 5 for 69, Rangana Herath 4 for 71) & 104 for 4 (Quinton de Kock 37; Hashim Amla 24*, Rangana Herath 3 for 24) by 265 runs.

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(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)