Sri Lanka chasing 197 for unexpected series win in SAfrica

February 22, 2019
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Sri Lanka's bowler Dhananjaya de Silva, left, celebrates with teammates after dismissing South Africa's batsman Hashim Amla for 32 runs on day two of the second cricket test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — Completely written off at the start, Sri Lanka needs 137 more runs for a startling series victory in South Africa and the first sweep over the Proteas at home by anyone in more than a decade.

The Sri Lankans were 60-2 at stumps on the second day of the second test at St. George’s Park on Friday, chasing a target of 197 to win the match, clinch the series 2-0, and confirm a major upset.

South Africa won seven straight series at home before Sri Lanka, struggling for form, pulled off the first shock of the tour by chasing down 304 to win the first test and ensure it would at least draw the contest.

The victory target for Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth was much easier than the first test, although South Africa’s fast bowlers struck twice late on the second day to make it clear it wasn’t going to give up that home record easily.

Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier removed openers Lahiru Thirimanne and Dimuth Karunaratne, the captain, in consecutive overs to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 34-2.

Kusal Mendis strode in and swiped two fours through the covers to take Sri Lanka to the close. Oshada Fernando was with him on 17 not out.

Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa off three straight series defeats and with a patched up, inexperienced team under new captain Dimuth Karunaratne. Dinesh Chandimal was discarded after leading the Sri Lankans to two heavy defeats in Australia.

Everyone was expecting an easy victory for South Africa, which beat Pakistan 3-0 last month and has seen off India and Australia in recent home series.

Instead, Sri Lanka has a chance of sweeping the South Africans at home for the first time since Ricky Ponting’s Australia won 3-0 in South Africa in 2006 — the only time post-apartheid that South Africa has been blanked in a home series.

No Asian team — not even mighty India or Pakistan — has even won a series in South Africa, let alone swept one.

Sri Lanka’s push for victory was made possible by its bowlers, who exposed frailties in the South Africa batting through the series and bowled the home team out for 128 in its second innings earlier on day two. That South African collapse saw the home team throw away a 68-run first-innings lead.

Quick Suranga Lakmal took 4-39, stand-in spinner Dhananjaya de Silva 3-36 and South Africa lost seven wickets for 38 runs in what might be a series-deciding slump.

Sri Lanka was also in with a chance of an historic win while a player down after front-line spinner Lasith Embuldeniya broke his left thumb badly attempting a caught and bowled on the first day.

Embuldeniya left the ground for the hospital and watched the action on Friday from the stadium seats with the thumb bandaged and his arm in a sling, unlikely to play any more part in the test unless Sri Lanka desperately needs him to bat.

Victory is not guaranteed. Wickets have tumbled in the test, with 13 falling on the first day and 18 on the second. Sri Lanka, also struggling with the bat, was bowled out for 154 in its first innings.


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