Kumara double rocks South Africa

Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to bowl against South Africa
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Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, did not attempt to disguise the fact: South Africa had purposefully produced a Newlands pitch for the second Test designed for seam bowling. Even Table Mountain, adorned by cloud, came out in support.

But it was Sri Lanka who won first use of a firm, grassy surface and two wickets late in the session – making three in all – ensured they achieved what had to be seen as a minimum objective at the end of a session when the odds were in their favour.

Stephen Cook departed four balls into the match, but Sri Lanka were desperate for further inroads as lunch loomed and Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla, in contrasting styles, assembled composed resistance. That boost came from the impressive 19-year-old quick Lahiru Kumara, whose third over accounted for both Amla and JP Duminy.

Kumara, maintaining speeds well in excess of 140kph, unhinged Amla with an excellent delivery which came back between bat and pad, leaving Amla once again short of a big score to restate his talent. Five balls later, Duminy fended Kumara off his hip for the wicketkeeper, Kusal Mendis, to spring down the leg side for a fabulous catch.

Mendis’ presence behind the stumps had been the outcome of much Sri Lankan agonising before start of play. News gradually filtered through that Dinesh Chandimal was feeling ill, not enough to rule him out of the match, but persuading Sri Lanka that he should concede the gloves to reduce his workload.

Cook was the man of the match in Port Elizabeth, striking a century and half-century in South Africa’s emphatic 206-run win, but he made a four-ball duck on this occasion: two outswingers and an inswinger from Suranga Lakmal before another outswinger, slightly fuller, forced Cook into a statuesque nibble and a faint edge to the wicketkeeper.

Sri Lanka also made two changes from the first Test, omitting Kusul Perera and Dushmantha Chameera in favour of Lahiru Perera and the seasoned Upul Tharanga.

Du Plessis had been unabashed about the fact that the Newlands pitch looked fresher than the one that met England at Newlands a year ago. “Against England last year it was a road,” he said. “It was different for that bowling attack. You have to prepare for the team you are playing against.”

Lakmal carried the most threat for Sri Lanka with the new ball, clearly roused by the sight of lavish movement, and responding with a tongue-out grin and a little strut when he drew Amla into a play-and-miss. But Nuwan Pradeep, although combative enough, lacked the technical skill to make the most of the conditions.

When Amla unveiled a consummate cover drive against Lakmal and Elgar pushed the same bowler down the ground for a boundary in more understated fashion, drinks came at 42 for 1 and South Africa had cause for satisfaction.

Pradeep did make an impact on the umpire Aleem Dar, catching him on the elbow as he approached the crease and bringing some pained arm extensions from the man who had just passed Rudi Koertzen as the most capped umpire in all formats. An umpire incapable of raising his finger was not about to help Sri Lanka’s cause.

But Kumara’s zestful appearance lifted Sri Lanka’s spirits. Amla drove the last ball of his second over easefully down the ground, but at the start of his next over a ball of similar length came back sharply off the seam to bowl him. Duminy’s departure to a back-of-a-length delivery suggested that Kumara, playing only his third Test, could be quite a find.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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