Faf's epic career-best highlights day of records as Proteas smell blood

Faf du Plessis made his highest Test score (Gallo Images)
Faf du Plessis made his highest Test score (Gallo Images)

Batting records tumbled on the third day of the first Test between the Proteas and Sri Lanka in Centurion as the hosts put themselves in a prime position for a victory.

In amassing a colossal 621, South Africa ensured a 225-run advantage, which looked increasingly useful as their battered opponents ended on a wobbly 65/2 at the close, which is effectively three wickets down with Dhananjaya de Silva unable to bat.

Their first innings total is the highest in Test cricket at SuperSport Park.

Appropriately, the hosts' run spree was spearheaded by the oldest member of their squad, Faf du Plessis.

The 36-year-old veteran eliminated much doubt over his continued selection - particularly given the prevailing sentiment that South Africa are in a rebuilding phase - by crafting a magnificent, fluent 199.

It was a substantial improvement on his previous highest Test score, the 137 he made against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth way back at the start of 2013.

The only disappointment was that his 276-ball stay at the crease didn't translate into a richly deserved double hundred, which would've been the 16th in South Africa's Test history.

Instead, he tamely and unexpectedly tried to loft debutant leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (4/171) over mid-off, only to see the ball pop up to an almost embarrassed Dimuth Karunaratne.

Du Plessis threw his head back in frustration and Dean Elgar, who missed out on a century by five runs, was caught on camera with his head between his knees in the dressing room.

He's intimately familiar with the feeling - his highest Test score too is 199.

Nonetheless, there can be no doubting his worth in a team hoping to become a burgeoning force in world cricket again.

Admittedly, Du Plessis' march towards a double hundred was significantly eased by a compromised Sri Lankan attack that's been hammered by injuries.

With Kasun Rajitha and Dhananjaya de Silva already yanked out of the equation by day two, the Islanders lost paceman Lahiru Kumara to a groin injury while Hasaranga also went off for a significant period of time with a bump to the knee in the outfield.

Forced to use part-timers to manage the frontline bowlers, the visitors simply didn't have the ammunition to keep a lid on the South African scoring rate. 

Consequently, several other batters also cashed in to varying extents.

Wiaan Mulder complemented an impressive bowling display in Sri Lanka's first innings with a sprightly 36 - his highest score to date - that was frustratingly ended when he edged a late cut off Hasaranga.

It was a shot that reminded all that the gifted all-rounder is still inexperienced as he'd just survived a catch off the previous delivery.

Keshav Maharaj made a better fist of his opportunity, hitting six fours and two sixes in his 106-ball 73, which improved his career best - made in India last year - by a run.

Such was the Proteas' dominance by the end of it all that the early groundwork laid by Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma was almost forgotten.

The pair, who added 179 for the fifth wicket, had to skillfully navigate a surface that behaved erratically at the start of the day before Bavuma fell for 71. 

The diminutive stroke-maker's dismissal though proved controversial as he fell victim to his own nobility.

Bavuma did admittedly slash at wide delivery from Dasun Shanaka (2/98), but replays showed that he actually didn't hit the delivery.

It overshadowed a fine innings that really should've been converted into an elusive second Test century.

Lungi Ngidi enhanced the batters' efforts with a quick two-wicket burst, castling visiting skipper Dimuth Karunaratne with splendid fuller one from around the wicket that kept low, before inducing an edge to slip from Kusal Mendis.

It illustrated the value of keeping to a fuller length on this surface, though Anrich Nortje's continued insistence on bowling quicker and shorter allowed the dangerous Kusal Perera to reach an ominous unbeaten 33. 

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