When bad light forced the close with 22 overs of the second day’s play remaining the Lankans were 181/7 in reply to South Africa’s first innings of 286 – 105 runs behind.
The disciplined Vernon Philander epitomized South Africa’s approach with the ball‚ taking 3/35 from 16 overs‚ while Kyle Abbott was on the same page for his 2/49 from 18.
Dhananjaya de Silva was the Lankans’ most solid batsman and will resume on 43 not out on Wednesday.
Seven wickets fell for the addition of 56 runs in the 21.5 overs bowled in the morning session.
Between lunch and tea‚ 67 trickled into the scorebook at the cost of two more scalps.
Another two wickets fell for the addition of 77 runs in what was seen of the third session.
That pattern of play was perhaps dictated by the intense humidity and the easterly breeze bringing moisture from the sea.
South Africa resumed on 267/6 and added just 14 runs before they were dismissed 53 balls into the day’s play with seamer Suranga Lakmal completing a haul of 5/63‚ his maiden five-wicket effort in his 32nd test.
The slide started in the day’s fifth over when Nuwan Pradeep had Philander caught at deep square leg.
South Africa’s hopes of posting a more respectable total were snuffed out when Pradeep yorked Quinton de Kock for 37 to end the innings.
But Sri Lanka’s satisfaction with their bowling performance was quelled when their batsmen slumped to 22/3 after eight overs.
Dimuth Karunaratne drove expansively at Abbott and dragged the ball onto his leg stump before Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis were caught behind – both after playing rash strokes – off Philander and Abbott.
Opener Kaushal Silva showed more discipline and was still there at lunch‚ but in the ninth over of the second session he was trapped in front by a Philander inswinger to end his vigil of 16 runs and 59 balls.
Captain Angelo Matthews survived two reviews for his wicket before‚ in the seventh over before tea‚ he edged Kagiso Rabada to third slip to go for 39.
Eleven balls later the Lankans should have been 94/6 but wicketkeeper De Kock‚ diving to his right‚ couldn’t hold the edge Dinesh Chandimal offered off Rabada.
But there was no sparing Chandimal 10 overs after that‚ when Philander trapped him in front with an inswinger.
Rangana Herath played the sprightliest knock of the innings‚ clipping 32 off 24‚ before his opposite number‚ left-arm spinner Keshav
haraj‚ beat a reverse-sweep to earn a lbw.
Maharaj might have claimed another wicket when De Silva‚ on 27 with the total on 162/7‚ hammered a drive back to the bowler.
Sadly‚ for Maharaj and South Africa‚ he dropped it.
– Tiso Black Star Group/Tiso Black Star Group SportVernon Philander of South Africa during day two of the 1st Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St George’s
Picture: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images