Two quick wickets after lunch failed to stem the flow of runs as South Africa reached 174 for two at tea on the opening day of the first test against Sri Lanka on Monday.
Suranga Lakmal ended a 104-run opening partnership and claimed the wickets of Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar in quick succession as Sri Lanka produced a much-improved bowling display after a tepid first session with the ball.
But JP Duminy and Hashim Amla continued to lift the run rate with an unbeaten 69-run partnership dominated by Duminy’s fine strokeplay as he contributed 46 runs off 55 balls.
Amla, needing a confidence-building innings, played a more cautious role and was 18 not out off 66 balls after the second session. South Africa dominated early and took lunch on 92 without loss before Lakmal had the two openers caught by wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.
Cook, on 59, squared up to a delivery that straightened and Elgar went in Lakmal’s next over for 45, tempted by a ball outside the off stump that he could have left alone.
Amla struggled initially and took 23 balls to get off the mark but Duminy took to the bowlers from the start of his innings, continuing the form he showed in the recent series in Australia.
With more in-form batsmen to follow, the hosts will now look to impose themselves further in near-perfect conditions for batting.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers looked lacklustre in the first session but Lakmal showed fight after the break in the first match of a three-test series.
Sri Lanka, who have lost eight of 10 previous tests in South Africa, are hoping a young side will prove competitive after beating Australia at home this year and Zimbabwe away.
Conditions, however, will not work to their strengths as South Africa prepare pitches that favour their pace attack which is expected to dominate even without the injured Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn.
JP Duminy and Stephen Cook scored half centuries but four wickets for Suranga Lakmal and two for Rangana Herath restricted South Africa to 267 for six on the opening day of the first test against Sri Lanka on Monday.
Duminy made 63 and Cook 59 as South Africa threatened to dominate on a dry track at St George’s Park but wickets at key moments kept Sri Lanka firmly in the game.
Lakmal ended a 104-run opening partnership between Cook and Dean Elgar and took two more vital wickets to leave honours even at the start of the three-test series.
He removed both openers in quick succession as Sri Lanka produced a much improved bowling display after lunch.
Cook squared up to a delivery that straightened and Elgar went in Lakmal’s next over for 45, tempted by a ball outside the off stump that he could have left alone.
Hashim Amla continued to look out of form and his footwork again proved his downfall as he was the third batsman caught by wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal off Lakmal for a laboured 20 off 107 balls.
But while Amla struggled, Duminy went after the seamers and raced to 50 off 73 balls but he was then pegged back before attempting to sweep Herath and being trapped lbw.
Herath had Temba Bavuma lbw for three after a review before Lakmal, who ended the day with figures of 4-62 and tantalisingly close to first test five-wicket haul, removed Faf du Plessis for 37 with the second new ball. The home captain was caught out by extra bounce and snapped up by Dimuth Karunaratne at first slip.
Quinton de Kock (25 not out) and Vernon Philander (6 not out) will resume on Tuesday. Sri Lanka, who have lost eight of 10 previous tests in South Africa, will be pleased their a young side kept up their competitive edge after beating Australia at home this year and Zimbabwe away.
*South Africa 281/9, Quinton de Kock 27*, Kagiso Rabda : Out.