Atapattu attack puts Proteas on the rack

Sri Lanka 470 & 211-4 South Africa 189
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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka are closing in on their first Test series victory over South Africa after dominating play here yesterday.

At stumps on day three of the second and final Test Sri Lanka had amassed a massive 492-run lead over the Proteas, who have won four of the five Test series between the two countries.

The home side are 211 for 4 in their second innings, thanks mainly to half-centuries from their new captain Marvan Atapattu (72) and Kumar Sangakkara (64), who shared in a second-wicket stand of 96.

The former skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, who took five South African scalps in their first-innings of 189, made just 19 before being stumped by Mark Boucher off the bowling of Nicky Boje. Sangakkara, in sparkling form, was brilliantly caught at long-on by Makhaya Ntini off the bowling of Jacques Kallis with the score on 142. Seven runs later, Sri Lanka lost their third wicket when Mahela Jayawardene gave a faint edge to Boucher. With the rush for runs definitely on, Atapattu was clean bowled by Jacques Rudolph with the score on 179 for 4.

Sri Lanka are in a formidable position, especially as South Africa showed earlier in the day that their lower-order batting can be brittle as they suffered a collapse after lunch to hand the initiative to the home side.

Jayasuriya claimed the scalps of the Proteas' skipper Graeme Smith, for 65, and the dangerous Kallis for 13 in the morning session while Rudolph was also dismissed by Lasith Malinga, for just six, before the first interval.

South Africa were 186 for 6 at lunch and were quickly all out for just three more runs. Boeta Dippenaar was dismissed for 25 from the first ball of the afternoon, becoming the first of Rangana Herath's three victims. The left-armer also took the wickets of Shaun Pollock for one and Ntini for a duck. Jayasuriya finished the job by taking his fifth wicket of the innings, bowling Nantie Hayward for one with an arm ball which deceived the batsman.

The South African captain Smith said his side were under severe pressure to save the Test after a disastrous day.

"We did not have a good day today," Smith said. "We got ourselves into a bad position and did not get ourselves out of it. We had discussed that in team meetings, the importance of not losing wickets at quick intervals, but we lost 7 for 73 today that is simply not good enough."

Smith then said, however, that Sri Lanka's decision not to enforce the follow on has given his side a better chance of saving the game.

"I was surprised that they did not enforce the follow on, which gave us an opportunity to regroup, re-think and comeback," said Smith. "The pressure is on us now to go out there and bat for two days. We still believe we can do it as we have guys that can bat for two days - there is no doubt about that."

The part-time spinner Jayasuriya was delighted he had helped his team's cause. "Somebody had to come up with a good bowling spell in Murali's (Muttiah Muralitharan) absence and I got an opportunity of doing that," he said. "I was only thinking of putting the ball in the right areas and giving some kind of support to the other end.

"It was not a difficult wicket to bat on and I feel South Africa were a little negative. They didn't want to play shots and that is why they lost wickets."