South Africa heading for victory over injury-hit Sri Lanka

CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA (AP) — South Africa took five more wickets quickly and was on the verge of victory over an injury-stricken Sri Lanka in the first test yesterday.

The South African pace bowlers had Sri Lanka 148-7 at lunch on the fourth day — still trailing by 77 runs — and it was unclear how many more batsmen the Sri Lankans would be able to call on in what appeared now to be a vain effort to avoid defeat.

Sri Lanka has had five players go down with injuries in the test. Three of them, allrounder Dhananjaya de Silva and fast bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara, are the only players left to come for Sri Lanka.

Lunch was called when Vishwa Fernando was run out for a duck.

Another of the injured players, debutant spin bowler Wanindu Hasaranga, did come out to bat and was limping heavily at times but showed fighting spirit in his 28 not out.

But South Africa had already blown away the Sri Lankan top and middle order in the day’s first session and was on course to lead the two-test series. The most important wicket was Kusal Perera’s. Anrich Nortje had him caught behind by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock for a brave and counterattacking 64.

Perera wasn’t given out at first but skipper de Kock risked South Africa’s one remaining TV review to confirm Perera had got a faint outside edge.

Sri Lanka started the day 65-2 but lost Dinesh Chandimal (25), Niroshan Dickwella (10) and Perera in the space of nine overs, and then Dasun Shanaka and Fernando just before lunch.

Wiaan Mulder picked up those first two wickets of the day, bowling Chandimal — another injured Sri Lankan — and then forcing an edge behind off Dickwella.

Fernando’s run out, in a mix-up with Hasaranga that resulted in him being sent back to the non-striker’s end, summed up Sri Lanka’s position.

And yet Sri Lanka made a strong start to the test, posting 396 in the first innings for its best test total in South Africa. The tourists’ chances disappeared as player after player left the field with injury over the first three days.

South Africa was ruthless on Sri Lanka’s badly depleted bowling attack to make 621 in its first innings, with 199 from Faf du Plessis.