Sri Lanka bring South Africa back down to earth
By Staff Writers | December 28, 2011
Kumar Sangakkara, the world’s number-one ranked Test batsman, completed one of the last missing milestones in his outstanding career when he hit a maiden Test Century on South African soil at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Wednesday.
The former captain's 28th Test century resulted in Sri Lanka stretching their overall lead to 426 runs by stumps on day three.
South Africa chipped away at the wickets and have worked their way to the Sri Lankan tail and it is likely that captain Tillakeratne Dilshan will allow his lower-order to bat out the innings and set the Proteas a target in the region of 450 runs, with more than five sessions in which to take the necessary 10 wickets to square the series.
For South Africa the situation is very disheartening; it is a target that has never been achieved in the history of the game before, although England did make a monumental 654/5 in the notorious drawn ‘Timeless Test’ at the same venue in 1939.
The Proteas’ most successful runs chase has been the 414, which they made against Australia at Perth in 2008. The West Indies hold the world record with the 418 they made against Australia. The Proteas did chase down 340 to beat Australia at Kingsmead in 2002.
Sangakkara took advantage of a let-off on three, with the total still the overnight 7/1, when he edged Morne Morkel and Mark Boucher took off too late to have any chance of making a one-handed take. The ball went through to first slip Graeme Smith, who had virtually no chance of completing the dismissal.
Instead of having an aggregate of less than 10 runs for four completed innings in the series, Sangakkara went on to share important partnerships of 94 off 130 balls with the first innings batting hero Thilan Samaraweera and 104 for the sixth wicket off 163 balls with the impressive debutant Dinesh Chandimal, who completed his second half-century of the match.
Sangakkara reached his century off 161 balls with 13 fours. He, surprisingly, became becalmed in the final session, before holing out to Smith in the deep off the bowling of Imran Tahir.
The Proteas’ attack performed reasonably well considering they had a two-and-a-half hour afternoon session following the loss of the day’s first hour to rain with Dale Steyn (3/54 in 16 overs) leading the way.
The odds are stacked against the Proteas but the ball is firmly in the their court to undo the damage of the first innings. At least two centuries from the top six will be required, as there were from Smith and AB de Villiers in the successful runs chase at Perth.
With the pre-series chatter of Sri Lanka being an easy pushover, the islanders' performance on a track that was hyped to test them has firmly brought South Africa and their supporters back down to earth.
© Island Cricket