South Africa’s failure to dominate with the bat on the opening day of their first Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Monday was related to poor execution as well as a pitch which provided movement throughout the day, according to top-scorer JP Duminy.
The Proteas scored 267 for six on the first day, with Temba Bavuma (3) the only batsmen dismissed for less than double-figures, but nobody scoring more than Duminy’s 63 and opener Stephen Cook the only other batsman to pass fifty.
Cook scored 59 as he and Dean Elgar put on 104 for the first wicket, but after the first two-and-a-half hours, Sri Lanka fought back to seize the initiative.
“It was probably a bold move to bat first with the quite tough pitch we’ve got, but we were positive things were going our way after Dean and Stephen started so exceptionally. After the start we had, we’re disappointed to be six down, that’s probably two wickets too many, and we had quite a few starts that we didn’t capitalise on,” Duminy said after play.
“There is a bit of grass on the pitch, which could produce divots and variable bounce, and at stages there was a bit of swing and movement. But I think it’s a really good cricket wicket, there’s something in it for the bowlers and also the opportunity to score runs.”
Duminy said the Proteas were hoping to get to 350-400 in their first innings.
“We have two quality players [Quinton de Kock (25*) & Vernon Philander (6*)] still in, so hopefully we can get to 350 or 400. If we can battle our way to that then it will stand us in good stead going forward, a big first innings is crucial,” Duminy said.
The left-hander had played fluently to score a terrific 63 off 95 balls, but then fell lbw to Rangana Herath, trying to sweep the wily left-arm spinner.
“I know it seems like a soft dismissal, but it’s part of my game-plan against Herath, it’s just my execution wasn’t good enough. I tried to get outside the line, but I was just inside. But it won’t change the way I’m looking to play him,” Duminy said.
Suranga Lakmal, the willowy Sri Lankan opening bowler, was the star of the day with four for 62 in 23 overs and the 29-year-old was praised by both camps.
“When Lakmal came around the wicket, there was a patch of grass on a good length and he was able to wobble the ball a bit off that. His big strength was hitting that consistent length and our bowlers will have to put balls in that consistent area like he did, he asked questions on a regular basis,” Duminy said.
“Suranga bowled exceptionally well, he set the tone for us and then that momentum carried on for us in the afternoon.
“He’s been the spearhead for the last two years and he stuck to the plans, bowling a good line and length. As the most senior of our three seamers, he gives us more control and the ball started swinging more after the first session,” Kaushal Silva, the Sri Lankan opening batsman, said.