Dale Steyn led the way with four wickets as the Standard Bank Proteas continued their run throughout the summer of bowling their opponents out in the first innings inside 60 overs.
Sri Lanka only batted two balls fewer than the Proteas had done in their first innings but it was sufficient to give the Proteas a crucial lead of 44 runs in what is turning out to be a low-scoring Test match.
Steyn took 4/48 in 20 overs to move at least temporarily ahead of England’s Stuart Broad into seventh place on the all-time wicket-taking rankings with the other three seamers providing five wickets while Aiden Markram contributed a run out from a smart piece of fielding at short leg.
The Proteas top-order, however, failed to bolt the back door when they batted a second down as Sri Lanka kept chipping away with wickets to leave the opening Castle Lager Test match at Kingsmead reasonably balanced at the close of play on day two with the Proteas leading by 170 runs with 6 wickets in hand.
The pitch was a lot more docile than it had been on the first day but there were nevertheless 13 wickets that fell compared with the 11 on day one.
While the Sri Lanka batsmen struggled to cope with the Proteas pace, the big change in Sri Lanka’s second innings bowling effort came from the debutant left-arm spinner, Lasith Embuldeniya. His control had been poor in the first innings but this time he bowled with accuracy and guile and captured important wickets in Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar.
He contributed a good all-round performance by holding up his end with the bat as did some of the other tail-enders to enable Sri Lanka to score 49 runs for their last three wickets in 20 overs to turn what looked like being a three-figure deficit into something a lot more manageable.
The top score for the visitors came from Kusal Perera (51 off 63 balls, 7 fours and a six) and he would probably have been less inclined to throw his wicket away if he had known how the tail was going to buckle down and play their part.
The Proteas are in the comfortable position of still having Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock at the crease and the latter will relish the opportunity to bat with a fellow specialist instead of having to shepherd the tail and curb his natural instincts.