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South Africa fight back
30 Jul 2006
By: Sudeep Popat

Sri Lanka got a bit of a taste of its own medicine, as the South Africans batsmen stuck in at the crease on day 4 of the first Test at Colombo. The visitors were 311-4 in their second innings at close of play, having trailed by 587 runs in the first innings. It is still a mammoth task ahead for the Protean batsmen to save the match, but there is now a semblance of a chance, where earlier there seemed to be none.

In fact, at one stage it looked as if we might be in store for an encore, akin to the Sri Lankan innings, as the South Africans openers, Jacques Rudolph, promoted in place of Herschelle Gibbs who is down with an illness, and Andrew Hall, took the score to 150 at the time of lunch.

Rudolph, although, fell after the break though, at the total at 165, caught off Dilhara Fernando on 90, and he was followed shortly after by Hashim Amla, who was trapped leg-before by the same bowler. A few overs later Andrew Hall lost his concentration too, getting found in front of the wickets off Muttiah Muralitharan. He made a gritty 64, in over four hours at the crease.

AB de Villiers, the next man in, looked to be getting along fine, and it seemed that South Africa would cruise through the day without losing another wicket. But just when he looked quite settled, de Villiers was removed leg-before off Muralitharan again.

At close of play, Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher has already shared an unbeaten 77-run stand, with the captain on 60, and the wicket-keeper on 38. With the visitors still adrift by 276 runs, and an entire day to survive, the two overnight batsmen will have to last quite some time. From they way they battled during the last 20-odd overs of the day, it certainly doesn't seem entirely impossible.

South Africa 169 and 311-4
JA Rudolph 90, AJ Hall 64, AG Prince 60*, MV Boucher 38*
CRD Fernando 2-49, M Muralitharan 2-83

Sri Lanka 756-5
KC Sangakkara 287, DMPG Jayawardene 374
DW Steyn 3-129

South Africa trail by 276 runs with six second innings wickets in hand.

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