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PORT ELIZABETH: Sri Lanka’s seamers set up a thrilling finish to the second and final Test against South Africa after closing day two on 60 for two in pursuit of a victory target of 197 on Friday, leaving the series finely balanced at St George’s Park.

Eighteen wickets fell on the second day, the most at this ground since 1914, as first Sri Lanka capitulated to 154 in their first innings and then skittled their hosts for 128 in South Africa’s second visit to the crease.

Oshada Fernando (17 not out) and Kusal Mendis (10 not out) will push for victory on the third morning, but with 31 wickets having fallen in six sessions, South Africa will still feel in the game.

The struggles of the batsmen on both sides would suggest a difficult wicket, but while there is some seam movement and bounce, it is not the minefield those numbers suggest.

Sri Lanka started their second innings an hour before the close and took the score to 32 before Lahiru Thirimanne (10) nicked fast bowler Kagiso Rabada to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.

Two runs later Duanne Olivier found the edge of Dimuth Karun­aratne’s bat when he had 19.

The home side were not able to claim any more wickets before the close as they seek to win the Test and avoid a first-ever home series loss to a side from Asia.

The tourists won an epic first Test by one wicket in Durban, a result that ensured South Africa’s streak of seven home series wins will come to an end.

Sri Lanka had resumed in the morning session on 60 for three in their first innings but were bowled out within 90 minutes as Rabada (4-38) proved chief destroyer.

The visitors clearly had a plan to attack the home bowlers and scored 94 runs in 17.4 overs, but could not stem the fall of wickets.

That gave the home side a first-innings lead of 68, but they were unable to capitalise after being skittled for 128 in their second innings.

South Africa’s top order has battled all season and struggled again as they slipped to 91 for five on the stroke of tea.

Hashim Amla (32) provided some resistance before he edged part-time spinner Dhananjaya de Silva (3-36) to slip, while skipper Faf du Plessis (50 not out) ended the innings as top-scorer but ran out of partners.

Suranga Lakmal (4-39) and Kasun Rajitha (2-20) were excellent as the rampant tourists bowled out the home side in 44.3 overs, their second lowest completed innings score at home since being bundled out for 96 by Australia at Newlands in 2011 a Test they won.

Scoreboard

SOUTH AFRICA (1st Innings) 222

SRI LANKA (1st Innings, overnight 60-3):

D. Karunaratne c De Kock b Rabada 17 L. Thirimanne c and b Olivier 29 O. Fernando b Olivier 0 K. Mendis c De Kock b Olivier 16 K. Rajitha b Rabada 1 K. Perera c De Kock b Rabada 20 D. de Silva c De Kock b Mulder 19 N. Dickwella c Elgar b Rabada 42 S. Lakmal lbw b Maharaj 7 V. Fernando not out 0 L. Embuldeniya absent injured

EXTRAS (LB-1, NB-2) 3

TOTAL (all out, 37.4 overs) 154

FALL OF WKTS: 1-25, 2-34, 3-59, 4-64, 5-66, 6-97, 7-128, 8-154, 9-154

BOWLING: Steyn 10-2-39-0; Rabada 12.4-3-38-4; Olivier
10-1-61-3 (2nb); Mulder 3-2-6-1; Maharaj 2-0-9-1

SOUTH AFRICA (2nd Innings):

A. Markram c O. Fernando b Rajitha 18 D. Elgar c Dickwella b V. Fernando 2 H. Amla c Mendis b De Silva 32 T. Bavuma c Dickwella b Rajitha 6 F. du Plessis not out 50 Q. de Kock c and b Lakmal 1 W. Mulder c Mendis b De Silva 5 K. Maharaj lbw b Lakmal 6 K. Rabada c Mendis b Lakmal 0 D. Steyn c Thirimanne b De Silva 0 D. Olivier lbw b Lakmal 6

EXTRAS (LB-1, NB-1) 2

TOTAL (all out, 44.3 overs) 128 FALL OF WKTS: 1-10, 2-31, 3-51, 4-90, 5-91, 6-100, 7-113, 8-115, 9-116 BOWLING: Lakmal 16.3-3-39-4; V. Fernando 10-1-32-1; Rajitha 7-1-20-2; De Silva 11-1-36-3 (1nb)

SRI LANKA (2nd Innings):

D. Karunaratne c De Kock b Olivier 19 L. Thirimanne c De Kock b Rabada 10 O. Fernando not out 17 K. Mendis not out 10

EXTRAS (LB-4) 4 TOTAL (for two wkts, 16 overs) 60 FALL OF WKTS: 1-32, 2-34 BOWLING (to-date): Steyn 5-0-20-0; Rabada 6-1-18-1; Olivier 3-1-10-1; Mulder 1-1-0-0; Maharaj 1-0-8-0.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2019