My gameplan yesterday was simple, get the final Sri Lankan wicket quickly and set their heels in to bat all day. If they did not do this, all of the efforts of Keshav Maharaj would have been for nought, and that would simply be inexcusable.
Play started in the morning session, South Africa had numbers 10 & 11 at the crease and a brand new ball. This should go quickly, right? Faf opened the bowling with Maharaj and Rabada, which you could understand. A little part of me, however, was hoping he would’ve given the ball to Steyn, but this didn’t happen until more than 30 minutes into play.
Akila Dananjaya & Rangana Herath, put on a final wicket partnership of 74. Remember too, this is not the first time the final wicket partnership for SL has put on a 50-run stand. This is a problem for South Africa, one they need to sort out. The sad part is, even if they did finish the innings quickly this morning, it wouldn’t have helped even a bit.
We then had to watch another failed batting attempt by the Proteas. One where they were bowled out for a pathetic 124, on day 2 of a Test match. They only lasted 34.2 overs, that was barely more than one session of play. In the first Test, they lasted 54.3 & 28.5 overs only. This is simply embarrassing.
Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis, was the only batsman to show any sort of comfort at the crease, he made a wonderful and fluent 48 runs before getting out and stood in a lovely 55 run partnership with Hashim Amla, who, in the course of his 19, achieved his 9000th Test run. This is an incredible achievement from a player that has been the backbone of South African Cricket for many years. Sadly though, that wasn’t the Amla we got today.
Sri Lanka’s spinners had a great time bowling to the hapless Proteas, and it was Dananjaya who was the chief destroyer, picking up 5-52, his 2nd five-for in Test Cricket. He had a brilliant day, after scoring 43 runs in SL’s first innings.
Dale Benkenstein can say it’s all about mental toughness, and that the players are almost where they want to be, but their batting “efforts” (and let’s be honest here, they are putting zero effort in their batting) are not showing this to be the case. All the talk from him about the “game plans” and being “mentally prepared” is just that, it’s all talk.
Sri Lanka could have enforced the follow-on, as South Africa trailed by 214 runs after the 1st innings, but they decided to just pile on the pressure instead. The bowlers had to put their bowling shoes back on, a mere 2 hours after they took them off, hoping for a rest, only to be told they had to go back out and bowl again.
Maharaj was visibly tired and was going at over 5/over. What did Faf think was going to happen though? He bowled over 30 overs in the 1st innings, and had to bowl a further 17 in the 2nd, when all the others bowled no more than 4 overs each. The Sri Lankan openers capitalised on this by scoring an opening partnership of 91 runs. Gunathilaka scored 61 runs, eventually getting out to Maharaj, while Karunaratne remained unbeaten on 59 by the close of play. Sri Lanka ended day 2 on 151-3, with a very commanding lead of 365.
South Africa were never in this game, from the moment the teams were announced, this game was as good as gone. That doesn’t however excuse their absolutely appaling batting. Something has to be done about this. We as fans, cannot keep getting subjected to performances like this.
Fight, resolve, patience. These are things I wanted to see from the South African batsmen today, but all I got was a bunch of wilted Proteas.