Sri Lanka lost two early second innings wickets after being pounded by South Africa’s hitters on the third day of the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Monday – but batting coach Grant Flower said she was effectively five or six wickets behind goods. Former captain Faf du Plessis led the strike attack, hitting 199 when South Africa took an impressive 225-run lead in the first innings. Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi struck twice at the start of Sri Lanka’s second innings, leaving the tourists 65 for two, still trailing 160 on a pitch of increasingly unpredictable bounce.
Flower said batsman Dhananjaya de Silva was out of the series after sustaining a torn thigh muscle on day one, while fast bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara were unlikely to hit after suffering groin injuries while bowling.
First-innings top scorer Dinesh Chandimal saw the day off working with Kusal Perera, but lay down by the boundary when he left the field and had to be ridden to the locker room on a motorized stretcher instead of climbing the steep steps to the locker room.
“We’re maybe six with a groin injury to Chandi,” Flower said.
Head coach Mickey Arthur said he would use his position on the International Cricket Council cricket committee to discuss the possibility of injury replacements, where injuries are more likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’ll have a chat at the end of this test match,” said Arthur. “I’ve seen India lose one of their quicks today and I suspect all teams will lose their quicks as it continues as the workload rigors will be too high with Covid and the quarantine process.”
He blamed the spate of condition injuries that saw players train at home during the Colombo lockdown, then play in the Lanka Premier League for a month until shortly before leaving for South Africa.
“In terms of charges, conditioning and quarantine, I think you can throw them all into a melting pot and they probably all play a role.”
– Career the best for Du Plessis –
He said he hoped leading fast bowler Suranga Lakmal would be fit for the second Test starting January 3 in Johannesburg. Looking further ahead, he said De Silva could miss a series against England from mid-January, but Angelo Mathews, who missed the south. African tour due to injury, could be suitable to meet England.
Debutante leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was off the field for part of the afternoon after falling on the ball trying to save a dive at the boundary. But he returned to finish with four wickets, albeit at the high cost of 171 runs.
At one point, Sri Lanka had four substitutes on the field, while captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis were called into action as bowlers.
Du Plessis and the other South African batsmen benefited with a free scoring showing. Taking his highest Test and First Division scores, Du Plessis appeared to cross to a double century before attempting to hoard Hasaranga above his head and hitting a simple flyout to Karunaratne halfway through.
Du Plessis shared a partnership of 179 for the fifth wicket with Temba Bavuma (71) and 133 for the seventh wicket with Keshav Maharaj, who made a Test-best 73.
The former captain admitted to proving a point after South Africa lost a series against England last season.
“The tallest tree sometimes gets the most wind,” he said. “(In) the series against England we didn’t play our best cricket and there was a lot of pressure on me as captain.”
Du Plessis said he used the long Covid-induced hiatus to prepare himself to become the best cricketer he could be. “It was an explanation for people who may have questioned my ability to say that I can still improve.”
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