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Ntini and Steyn win narrow lead
05 Aug 2006
By: Sean Fuller

Sri Lanka's lower order batsmen have dragged the team out of a terrible position on the second day in Columbo, after Makhaya Ntini wrecked the top order. Half-centuries to Vaas, Kapugedera and Maharoof ensured that the game remains close heading into the third day.

The second day began evenly poised, with Sri Lanka having dismissed the South Africans for 361 right on stumps on day 1. It took just 3 overs for Ntini to make his mark with the ball though, as Tharanga was caught by Boje attempting a pull shot. Jayasuria and Sangakkara steadied briefly, before Sangakkara became Ntini's second victim thanks to a sensational Amla catch.

Despite the early breakthroughs, the opening session remained fairly even until the opening bowlers returned before the lunch break. Dale Steyn removed the dangerous Jayawardene for 13, and then was replaced at the same end by Ntini, who immediately dismissed Jayasuria and Dilshan in the space of 3 deliveires. Suddenly, Sri Lanka were 5/86 and staring down a huge first innings deficit, and Ntini had 4/21 from 8 overs.

After lunch, things turned around for the home side. A strong half-century to Kapugedera ensured that Sri Lanka would at least reach 200, and he was given solid support by 'keeper Prasanna Jayawardene. They too perished in quick succession, this time to Boje and Steyn, and Sri Lanka were 7/191 midway through the day and still in trouble. Once again though, South Africa were thwarted by a strong stand from two less fancied batsmen. Maharoof and Vaas are both known to have ability with the bat, and Vaas has been in tremendous form with the willow for some time, but to bat for almost 40 overs when the top order had collapsed was a tremendous effort.

As the South African attack wilted in the heat, with Ntini and Pollock flagging particularly badly, the two bowlers survived through to tea and beyond. Both reached half-centuries as stumps approached, and it was the new ball and Dale Steyn who finally ended an afternoon of stubborn resistance from the Sri Lankans, as he blasted out the final 3 wickets in just 3 overs. Maharoof was the first to go, ending the stand with Vaas at 117, and then Vaas fell for 64. Lasith Malinga struck two boundaries before ending not out when Steyn clinched his 5 wicket haul as Muralitharan attempted to slog a boundary of his own.

The South African opening batsmen had just two overs to survive before stumps, and they did so without incident. As the day ended the home side would appear to be behind, with a deficit of 46 runs, but the trump card of Muttiah Muralitharan in the second innings has yet to be played, and it will be his influence that decides the outcome of the match. If the South African batsmen can repeat the performance against his bowling that they offered in the first innings and limit Murali's inevitable wickets to just the tail, the series may well be levelled. The pitch is still a very good one for batting however, and any target of less than 300 may well be chased down.

South Africa 361
AB de Villiers 95, Ashwell Prince 86
Muttiah Muralitharan 5/128, Lasith Malinga 3/81

Sri Lanka 321
Chaminda Vaas 64, Chamara Kapugedera 63
Dale Steyn 5/82, Makhaya Ntini 4/84

South Africa 0/6
Herschelle Gibbs 4*, Andrew Hall 2*

South Africa lead by 46 runs with 10 wickets and three days remaining.
Sri Lanka lead the two test series 1-0.

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