TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
RARELY can consecutive sessions of play have produced as radically different cameos of cricket as what was seen in the second test at Newlands on Tuesday.
Between lunch and tea on the second day South Africa bowled 144 legal deliveries at Sri Lanka and conceded runs off only 22 of them.
Another 114 balls were bowled in the Lankan innings after tea and yielded 23 scoring shots.
Not much difference there but there was a world of it in the wicket column.
Two went down before tea, the other eight after.
That saw the visitors dismissed for 110 in reply to South Africa’s first innings of 392, and that after being 56/1.
By stumps South Africa were 35 without loss in their second innings, which took their lead to 317.
Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada shared eight wickets and Keshav Maharaj claimed the other two, both in the top four.
But the star was Kyle Abbott, who was close to unhittable in the 48 balls he bowled, 45 of which were too good for the garnering of even a single.
Whatever is being served for tea in the dressingroom, perhaps the anti-doping police should take an interest.
Or perhaps South Africa bowled their socks off on a responsive pitch against opponents who, like they did in the first test at St George’s Park, ran out of resolve when they needed it most.
Faf du Plessis did not enforce the follow-on, perhaps because Wednesday’s forecast is for 32 degrees Celsius.
Or that could be because he does not want to bat last on a pitch that he fears could offer Rangana Herath too much for his men to handle.
The upshot is that the home side are in complete control of the match and the series, which they should wrap up long before Friday’s scheduled fifth day.
Only five of the Lankans made it into double figures and of them only Dimuth Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga stayed alive long enough to reach 20.
All of which made the century Quinton de Kock completed before lunch seem as if it had been scored a year ago.
South Africa resumed on 297/6 with De Kock 68 not out. He reached his third test ton in the 11th over of the day and was caught behind off Lahiru Kumara for 101 just three balls later.
The Lankans might have thought, having reduced South Africa to 336/8 and dismissed their last frontline batsman, that they would soon be at the batting crease.
But 56 runs were added after De Kock’s dismissal through the sturdy efforts of Philander, Maharaj and Rabada.
When Abbott, who resumed with de Kock, edged to the wicketkeeper Herath surpassed Chaminda Vaas as Sri Lanka’s second-highest test wicket-taker.
Philander’s dismissal, also caught behind, earned 19-year-old fast bowler Lahiru Kumara his maiden five-wicket haul in his third test.
When Kumara had Rabada taken behind to end the innings with what became the last ball before lunch he owned the best figures by a Sri Lankan fast bowler in a test innings in South Africa, a haul of 6/122.
The visitors were depleted by the absence of fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, who left the field with a quadriceps injury after bowling 15.4 overs on Monday and hasn’t bowled since.
Better news was that Dinesh Chandimal, who handed his wicketkeeping gloves to Kusal Mendis on Monday in an effort to aid his recovery from a fever, was back behind the stumps on Tuesday.
Not a lot else went right for the visitors, a trend that is unlikely to be bucked on Wednesday.