Lower-order heroics save the day

2011-12-28 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s top order continued with its string of poor performances at Kingsmead and had to rely on lower-order heroics to narrowly save the team from following on from Sri Lanka’s total of 338 yesterday.

But this was not enough to prevent South Africa from recording their lowest total against Sri Lanka when they were bowled out for 168. Their previous lowest was 169 all out in Colombo in 2006.

Earlier in the day South Africa wrapped up the Sri Lankans for 338 before lunch on the second day of the second Test in Durban.

With conditions that mirrored the first morning, Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel did their best to rattle Thilan Samaraweera and Rangena Herath, but the batsmen put up a stubborn resistance and kept up a good run rate.

Samaraweera continued with his overnight form and became only the second Sri Lankan to score a century in South Africa.

It was left to Marchant de Lange to clean up the tail and he entered the record books by adding three wickets to his overnight tally.

He bowled a sharp bouncer to Herath (30), who mistimed his pull shot and skied the ball to Boucher behind the stumps. De Lange then fired in another fierce bouncer at Chanaka Welegedara (2), who fended the ball straight to Hashim Amla at short leg.

The 21-year-old bowler then cashed in on a rare lapse in concentration from Samaraweera (102) who mistimed a drive and skied the ball to Ashwell Prince at mid-on. His performance saw De Lange finishing with 7/81, making him the third best performer in a single innings on debut for South Africa.

Only Lance Klusener, 8/64 against India in 1996, and Alfred Hall, 7/63 against England in 1923, have performed better on debut. He also became the eighth international bowler this year to pick up five wickets on debut, joining Doug Bracewell, James Pattinson, Ravichandran Ashwin, team-mate Vernon Philander, Pat Cummings, Elias Sunny and Nathan Lyon.

This was the first time in more than a year that Steyn went an entire innings without taking a wicket, the last time being against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi in November 2010.

Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph faced a tricky 10-over batting session before the lunch interval and they looked to be in good form driving balls with ease.

They continued after lunch until Rudolph (7) scooped a length delivery from Thisara Perera to Welegedara at fine leg. Smith (15) followed soon after he had edged a wide ball off Welegedara to Dinesh Chandimal behind the stumps.

Jacques Kallis scored his second duck this summer when he edged Welegedara’s ball to third slip, leaving South Africa on 27/3.

Amla and AB de Villiers then settled matters with some patient batting. De Villiers (25) brought up his 5 000 runs in Test cricket with a glance to square leg. But he gave the slips their second catch of the day off the bowling of Welegedara, who struck again when he had Amla (54) caught by Chandimal.

It was then the turn of spinner Herath to give the South Africans problems.

He was bowling with sharp turn and good pace and had Boucher (3) caught in the slips. Prince (11) then played a poor reverse sweep off Herath, which was caught by Mahela Jayawardene at leg slip. He bowled Morkel for a duck five balls later, leaving South Africa on 119/8.

But if Steyn had a bad day with the ball, he made up for it with the bat, thrilling the crowd with brute-force batting, hitting boundaries with ease in order to avoid the follow-on.

He was well supported by Imran Tahir (11) who was matching Steyn with boundaries. Tahir’s vigil came to an end when he over-extended a forward defensive off Herath and was stumped by Chandimal.

Steyn and De Lange again provided stubborn resistance, but De Lange (9) finally edged a good-length Welegedara delivery to Chandimal. This gave the bowler his career-best figures of 5/52.

The Sri Lankan batsmen came out and faced two overs under rapidly deteriorating light, and Morkel got some good away movement and was unlucky not to pick up a wicket. Steyn made up for his lack of wickets in the first innings when he put in an away swinger that found the outside edge of Tillakaratne Dilshan (4), which was taken by Smith at second slip. Stumps were called soon thereafter, with Sri Lanka 7/1.

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