South Africa captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat first in the second and final test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
The home side have handed a debut to all-rounder Wiaan Mulder, 21, who comes in for the injured Vernon Philander in the only change from the hosts’ one-wicket loss in the first test in Durban.
“It looks a traditional Port Elizabeth wicket, soft and slow on day one,” Du Plessis said at the toss.
“Wiaan Mulder comes in, it’s exciting for him, he offers a really good balance with our test team moving forward. Hopefully this will be the start of a great test career for him.
The tourists have gone with an unchanged line-up as they seek to become the first Asian side to win a test series in South Africa.
By the end of the first day, South Africa got dismissed for 222 runs – in this contest between two struggling top-orders. But the Proteas are still well in the game with Sri Lanka on 60/3 still trailing by 162 on the first innings.
After Du Plessis was dismissed in the lunch over; Quinton de Kock held things together in the afternoon session, in spite of being hampered by an apparent cramp. He managed another innings in the 80s (86 off 87 balls, 12 fours).
De Kock seemed well set for his second century of the home summer as he gave a display of peerless timing and strokeplay against the Sri Lankan seamers on what was a good surface in spite of the low total.
The introduction of spin brought about his demise as he struggled to move comfortably.
The Proteas went into the match needing a sound foundation if they were to get the win they needed to square the series, but it was not to be. Aiden Markram (60 off 116 balls, 9 fours) provided good support for De Kock in the afternoon session when 112 runs were scored for the loss of 3 wickets.
There were partnerships of 58 for the fourth wicket, 57 for the fifth and 59 for the eighth but what the Proteas needed were a couple of century stands.
All three Sri Lankan seamers again troubled the Proteas specialist batsmen with Vishwa Fernando leading the way with his 3/62 in 18.2 overs. This included dismissing Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla with successive deliveries in his new ball spell that put the home side on the back foot from the start.
Fernando now has 11 wickets in the series while De Kock has joined first Test hero Kusal Herera as the only batsmen with an aggregate of more than 200 runs.
The Proteas used their three frontline seamers to work their way through the Sri Lanka top order with new cap Wiaan Mulder having to wait until the second morning to get his first bowl.
Sri Lanka won an epic first test by one wicket in Durban, a result that ensures South Africa’s streak of seven home series wins will sadly come to an end.
South Africa: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Oshada Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Lasith Ambuldeniya.
Reporting by Nick Said/Reuters and Cricket.co.za.