Sri Lanka fights back, South Africa 267-6 in 1st test

Sri Lanka fights back, South Africa 267-6 in 1st test

Published Dec. 26, 2016 11:49 a.m. ET

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) Sri Lanka had all its success in the afternoon to pull South Africa back from 104-0 to 267-6 at stumps on the first day of the opening test on Monday.

Seamer Suranga Lakmal led Sri Lanka's revival at St. George's Park with four wickets and spinner Rangana Herath took two to undo the South Africans' work in the first half of the day.

A watchful half-century from Stephen Cook (59) in a century opening stand with Dean Elgar (45) and an attacking 63 from JP Duminy gave South Africa early impetus in the series-opener after winning the toss.

Sri Lanka persevered after struggling in the morning session. Lakmal removed both openers in the space of four overs soon after lunch before Herath stopped the free-hitting Duminy in his tracks, trapping him leg before wicket. Lakmal also dismissed captain Faf du Plessis for 37 with the new ball six overs before stumps, suggesting that Sri Lanka's bowlers had taken a little time but had finally found their range on a pitch that had a good covering of green grass but didn't appear to clearly favor either batsman or bowler.

Lakmal's 4-62 was a career-best performance for him in tests.

''The first two hours didn't go our way but we came back strongly,'' Sri Lanka's Kaushal Silva said.

The Sri Lankans are on a five-test winning streak but will especially value a strong start in South Africa, having never won a series in the country.


As well as getting rid of the openers, Lakmal also dismissed Hashim Amla for a scratchy 20, continuing the South African No. 3's dip in form and giving the quick bowler all of the first three wickets - and all caught behind by wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal. Herath had Duminy and Temba Bavuma (3) out lbw and when Du Plessis, South Africa's new permanent skipper, nicked Lakmal to Dinesh Karunaratne at first slip at the end of the day, the Sri Lankans strode off to their dressing room in the ascendancy. They had trudged off at lunch with nothing to show for their efforts from the first session of the three-test series.

Openers Cook and Elgar began with a record, with their partnership of 104 the first century opening stand for South Africa in Port Elizabeth in nearly 50 years. The last time two openers put on 100 for South Africa was in 1970 and the country's last test before a 22-year absence from international cricket because of apartheid.

Lakmal produced edges by Cook and Elgar in the space of four overs straight after lunch, though, and continued Amla's lean run. The year started with Amla stepping down as captain, and making 201 in a test against England, but he hasn't made a 50 in his last seven test innings and has gone 10 knocks without a hundred.

Herath, Sri Lanka's 38-year-old spinner, had arguably the day's most important breakthrough when he tempted Duminy into a sweep and trapped him in front. Duminy failed with a DRS review. Duminy had started in a whirlwind of attacking shots, eventually hitting 10 fours, most of them blistering cover drives. He tried to take the attack to Herath, though, and he came unstuck.

''You can get ahead of yourself,'' Duminy said. ''The way that Dean (Elgar) and Stephen (Cook) started was exceptional. We got quite a few starts but unfortunately we didn't capitalize on it.''