COLOMBO, July 27 (AFP): Kumar Sangakkara and skipper Angelo Mathews struck brisk half-centuries to help Sri Lanka set up a thrilling finale to the series-deciding second Test against South Africa here today.
Sangakkara (72) hit his tenth 50-plus score of the year and Mathews chipped in with an unbeaten 63 as the hosts declared their second innings on 229-8 shortly before close of play to set the visitors an imposing target of 369. At stumps on a rain-interrupted day four, South Africa were 38-1, needing 331 more runs off a minimum 98 overs to pull off a series-clinching win. Quinton de Kock (21) and Dean Elgar (13) were the not out batsmen at the crease.
The hosts, who posted 421 in their first essay, had bowled out South Africa for 282 in their first innings to gain a 139-run lead.
South Africa lead the two-Test series 1-0 after winning the opener in Galle by 153 runs. Even a draw in this game will see the Proteas reclaim the world number one ranking from Australia. South Africa�s chase did not start the way they had hoped for as they lost their first wicket with just six runs on the board.
Opener Alviro Petersen (zero) failed for the second time in the game when he was caught off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who opened the bowling. The Sri Lankan batsmen had started off confidently after rain interrupted play for an hour following the lunch break.
Sangakkara unleashed his trademark silken pulls and drives to race to the 50-run mark with a boundary off leg-spinner Imran Tahir (2-76). Just when he was looking good for a bigger score, he edged to wicketkeeper De Kock off Morne Morkel (4-45), bringing an end to his enterprising knock that included eight hits to the fence.
Kithruwan Vithanage (seven) was superbly caught by Faf du Plessis who ran backwards without taking his eyes off the ball and then dived forward to pluck it inches off the ground. Test debutant Niroshan Dickwella top-edged to AB de Villiers off Dale Steyn (2-59), failing to repeat his first innings performance which saw him score 72.
Earlier, Sri Lanka added a healthy 97 runs in the first session while losing their openers and the prolific Mahela Jayawardene. Opener Upul Tharanga (30) looked in good nick but he edged behind to the keeper while trying to drive Steyn in the sixth over of the morning.
Sri Lanka 1st innings: 421
South Africa 1st innings: 282
Sri Lanka 2nd innings: Tharanga c de Kock b Steyn 30, Silva c Philander b Morkel 26, Sangakkara c de Kock b Morkel 72, Jayawardene c Elgar b Imran Tahir 0, Mathews not out 63, Vithanage c du Plessis b Morkel 7, Dickwella c de Villiers b Steyn 16, Perera b Imran Tahir 7, Herath c de Villiers b Morkel 4. Extras: (b 1, lb 2, nb 1) 4. Total: (8 wickets dec; 53.4 overs) 229. Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-82, 3-83, 4-164, 5-174, 6-203, 7-214, 8-229. Bowling: Steyn 13-1-59-2, Philander 11-3-35-0, Tahir 18-0-76-2, Morkel 9.4-1-45-4, Elgar 1-0-9-0, Duminy 1-0-2-0.
South Africa 2nd innings: AN Petersen c Vithanage b Herath 0, D Elgar not out 13, Q de Kock not out 21. Extras: (lb 4) 4. Total: (1 wicket; 17 overs) 38. Fall of wickets: 1-4. Bowling: Herath 8-5-7-1, Perera 6-1-24-0, Mendis 3-2-3-0.