Cape Town - Opening bowler Vernon Philander defended South Africa’s decision not to enforce the follow-on after he and Kagiso Rabada destroyed the Sri Lankan batting on the second day of the second Test at Newlands on Tuesday.
Philander and Rabada took four wickets each as South Africa bowled out Sri Lanka for 110, giving South Africa a massive first innings lead of 282 runs.
But South Africa chose to bat again, reaching 35 for no wicket by the close, an overall lead of 317 runs.
"This gives us the best chance of winning the Test match," said Philander.
"We are setting up the game with the bat and it gives the bowlers a break. We are playing back-to-back Test matches and the bowlers had to work hard in (the first Test in) Port Elizabeth. This is the best way going forward for us."
Philander said that despite a dramatic collapse, in which the Sri Lankans lost all ten wickets in 17.3 overs, South Africa did not under-estimate the tourists.
"We have to respect the opposition," he said. "We will assess the situation going forward and decide what sort of target we need to set them."
Rabada took four for 37 and Philander four for 27 as Sri Lanka crumbled after Rabada broke a stubborn opening partnership.
Both Rabada and Philander reached personal milestones. Rabada took his 50th wicket in his 13th Test, while Philander achieved 150 wickets in 39 Tests.
Philander said he was delighted to reach the mark at Newlands, his home ground, but said his main emotion was relief he was fully fit after being out of action because of injury for most of last year.
"Being out of the game you miss those moments. I just want to take as many wickets as I can for my country."
Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne defied South Africa’s new ball attack for 73 minutes, putting on 31 runs before Rabada made the breakthrough in the 16th over when Silva was forced on to the back foot by a lifting delivery which he played on to his stumps.
Rabada, 21, continued to show why he is regarded as one of the world’s rising stars but Sri Lanka had a young hero of their own.
Lahiru Kumara, 19, took six for 122 in South Africa’s first innings of 392. He had not taken more than two wickets in an innings in his previous two Test matches and three other first-class games.
"I’m very happy but the pitch did assist me," he said through an interpreter. He said his first wicket, that of Hashim Amla, was his most satisfying. "It was a good delivery and I was able to bowl a great player like Amla."
Kumara said one of his role models was South Africa’s Dale Steyn, currently recovering from a shoulder injury.
"He’s got a very smooth action, the way he runs up and delivers the ball is good. All in all he is the bowler I admire most."
He said Sri Lanka’s aim would be restrict South Africa to about 250 in the second innings.
Asked about Sri Lanka’s batting, a smiling Kumara said: "Batting is not my area of expertise. You will have to ask the batsmen."
Quinton de Kock made his third Test century before South Africa were bowled out on Tuesday morning.
De Kock took his score from 68 to 101, made off 124 balls with 11 fours, before edging Kumara to wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.
Seven South Africans were caught behind, three by Mendis when Chandimal was suffering from a fever on the first day and four by Chandimal on Tuesday.
The combined wicketkeeping haul was one more than the Sri Lankan Test record and equal to the world record.