Hashim Amla © AFP
Hashim Amla stood like a rock for the Proteas with an unbeaten 139 © AFP

By R Vishal

Jul 26, 2014

Sri Lanka finished Day Three in control of proceedings in the 2nd Test match with a sizable lead of 150. South Africa were led by example by the exemplary Hashim Amla to bat out the day and remained unbeaten even at the close of the innings. Amla was well supported by Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir down the order and looked at ease with AB de Villiers too. Sri Lanka finished the day’s play at 11 for no loss.

Earlier, South African skipper Amla scored a magnificent unbeaten century to blunt and frustrate the Sri Lankan bowling attack. The South African tail should also be appreciated for their stoic resistance and rallying around Amla. South Africa started well in the day’s play. Amla and De Villiers did not hold back and were finding the boundary ropes at will. De Villiers’ all-round play was in full flow and pacer Suranga Lakmal was dealt with with ease. Amla soon joined the act and brought up his half-century. Back-to-back boundaries of the lacklusture Ajantha Mendis started proceedings for the Protea skipper.

The duo looked solid and were playing Rangana Hearth well and it looked as if the storm had passed for the South Africans. Some tight bowling from Perera and Herath in his comeback spell that set up the wickets. The spinners stemmed the run flow and the strokemakers’ attacking talents were curbed. Perera got a hint of turn off a delivery that looked poised to go straight. De Villiers was trapped plumb in front and marched back to the pavilion after he referred it with the third umpire. It was just a hint of turn that deceived the South African talisman.

One delivery later, Quinton de Kock was outsmarted by some bounce. The delivery did not look that deadly but the ball went on to clip the off-stump. JP Duminy then joined hands with his captain. Defence was the order of the day and Duminy, in particular took this approach way more seriously than the others. Duminy prodded and blocked and tried to wear the bowlers. Amla on the other hand was moving along nicely towards his century.

Just then, luck favoured the excellent Herath. A slightly over-pitched delivery caught the onrushing Duminy’s pads and debutant wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella smartly whipped off the bails. Vernon Philander also took the Duminy route and was trying to give as much as of the strike to Amla.

The South African captian had the rub of the green when he was in his nineties. A chipped shot off Herath found the hands of Kaushal Silva at point. Silva dived to hpis right but ut it down. It should have been taken though as it came at a reasonable pace and decent height.

Perera then completed his third consecutive four wicket haul off a gem of delivery. Philander was teased by the spinners quite a bit before the dismissal but this time the ball pitched on the middle stump and breached the batsman’s defence. The ball spun deliciously and crashed on his off-stump.

Amla meanwhile brought up his first century against Sri Lanka and his 22nd overall. It was also his first in the Island Nation. It was his slowest century and was crafted with utmost caution and his archetypical monk-like demeanour. Dale Steyn, then played a fighting knock of 30. The best part of his innings was that he looked to attack the bowlers. Imran Tahir was looking good too but he threw his wicket away with a silly shot. De Villiers missed a sharp chance at second slip towards the end of the day’s play. Vernon Philander was the unlucky bowler and Upul Thranga was the batsman.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 421 (Mahela Jayawardene 165, Niroshan Dickwella 63; Vernon Philander 2 for 52) & 11 for no loss (Upul Tharanga 6*, Kaushal Silva 5*) 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) by 150 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)