Rabada leads the way

Standard Bank Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada celebrating a wicket with teammates

Standard Bank Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada celebrating a wicket with teammates

KAGISO RABADA led a strong bowling performance that saw the Standard Bank Proteas overcome the disadvantage of losing the toss to take all 10 Sri Lanka first innings wickets inside 80 overs on the opening day of the two-match Test Series at Galle on Thursday.

At one stage it looked as though were holding an overwhelmingly strong position when they had the home side 176/8 shortly after the tea interval but opening batsman Dalmuth Karunaratne rallied tail-end support to see the last two wickets add 111 to the total and give Sri Lanka a much more competitive 287 all out. Karunaratne became the fourth Sri Lankan to carry his bat in a magnificent innings of 158 not out (222 balls, 13 fours and a six). It was his eighth Test century and the fourth time he has made more than 150.

Sri Lanka then completed an excellent session by taking the wicket of Aiden Markram in the four overs the Proteas had to face before the close.

Spin bowling is going to be a factor throughout the match but the pitch nevertheless looks a good one for batting at this stage.

Rabada moved smoothly back into Test match mode after an extended break to recover from his back strain and was always a threat as he took 4/50 in 14 overs. That included the initial breakthrough in his opening spell and a sensational start to his second spell when he took two wickets off the first three balls he sent down.

The Proteas included Tabraiz Shamsi as a fifth specialist bowler as they continued the attacking approach that has been the hallmark of Ottis Gibson’s reign as head coach and the move paid off. The wrist spinner had an excellent day with a career best return of 3/91 in 25.4 overs. The first 20 of those overs came in a single spell and for a long time, in addition to the wickets he took, he conceded little more than two runs to the over.

He came on to bowl at 67/1 after 18 overs and, when he was rested, Sri Lanka had slumped to 211/8 in 57 which was a clear indication of his value.

His control was most impressive and Karunaratne was the only Sri Lanka batsman to pick his varieties with confidence. By blocking one end he enabled Faf du Plessis to launch a short-pitch attack from the other end by Rabada and the returning Dale Steyn.

It worked for the first 60 overs before the Proteas attack started to tire.

The five-man attack has given the Proteas a good position that the specialist batsmen will need to consolidate on day two.