Sri Lanka have taken early control of the first Test in South Africa thanks to a 131-run partnership between Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal.
The fourth wicket partnership was only interrupted when de Silva had to retire hurt on 79 on Saturday’s opening day with what appeared to be a left hip injury sustained when he ran for a quick single about half an hour before tea.
But his dashing half-century and the support of Chandimal (50 not out) revived Sri Lanka from 54-3 after the tourists chose to bat first at Centurion.
Sri Lanka went into tea on a highly promising 3-212, with Niroshan Dickwella (11 not out) replacing de Silva in the middle.
De Silva’s departure on a medical golf cart robbed Sri Lanka of some of its momentum but the tourists were still well on top in the first of two Tests.
They had added 110 runs to their total after lunch without losing a wicket and were going at an impressive run rate of 4.07 an over.
De Silva hit 11 fours and a six and justified Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne’s decision to bat first at a ground that traditionally favours fast bowlers.
South Africa’s quick bowlers removed Karunaratne for 22 and then Kusal Mendis (12) and Kusal Perera (16) in successive overs before lunch but had no more success in the first four hours of play.
Both teams are playing their first test in nearly a year after they had their series called off because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Sri Lanka appeared to have found their feet quickest.
South Africa were missing strike bowler Kagiso Rabada because of injury and the Proteas selected Lutho Sipamla for his debut to fill that hole.
Sipamla took 0-56 off nine overs and struggled on his first day in Test cricket but fellow seamers Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Wiaan Mulder all took a wicket apiece.
None of them, though, were overly impressive on a pitch that South African quick bowlers normally thrive on.
Quinton de Kock had much to consider in his first match as South Africa’s test captain.