Fantastic Faf puts Proteas in sight of victory

South Afria's cricket player Faf du Plessis plays a shot during the 3rd day of the first Test cricket match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Kingsmead Cricket Ground in Durban on February 15, 2019. (Photo by Anesh DEBIKY / AFP)

South Afria's cricket player Faf du Plessis plays a shot during the 3rd day of the first Test cricket match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Kingsmead Cricket Ground in Durban on February 15, 2019. (Photo by Anesh DEBIKY / AFP)

South Africa’s skipper leads from the front as Sri Lanka struggle in a big chase.

Despite illustrating again how woefully long their batting tail is, the Proteas played themselves into a commanding position at the close of the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Durban on Friday.

Armed with a target of 304 to defend, the hosts’ potent pace attack flourished again, reducing their opponents to 83/3 when rain ended proceedings prematurely.

Two strikes in two overs by Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada had crippled the Sri Lankans after the opening pair of captain Dimuth Karunaratne (20) and Lahiru Thirimanne (21) had made a solid start.

The talented Kusal Mendis played a shocking ramp shot against the pace of Duanne Olivier as the islanders threatened to collapse in a heap, but Oshara Fernando (28*) and Kusal Perara saw things out.

Earlier, the Proteas were indebted to Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock for setting up a challenging chase.

De Kock scored his second fifty of the match, once again showing precocious ability to maintain a very healthy scoring rate on a difficult surface before being trapped LBW.

His 55 dominated a fifth-wicket stand of 96 with Du Plessis.

South Africa’s skipper was more dogged, but his solid 90 proved absolutely vital.

However, the lower order subsided alarmingly after that as the home side lost five wickets for eight runs.

The admirable Visha Fernando swung the older ball to claim 4/71, while spinner Lasith Embuldeniya plugged away well to finish with a well-deserved 5/66.

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