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Cricket news - Sri Lanka lose three in daunting chase

Sri Lanka need 224 more runs to win

Even before South Africa collapsed in the second session, the match had already slipped out of Sri Lanka's grasp. The lead, on a decorticating track offering plenty of spin, was nearing 300. South Africa lost their last five wickets for eight runs - going from 251 for 5 to 259 all out - as Lasith Embuldeniya picked up his maiden five-wicket haul in his debut Test. Vishwa Fernando too had his share of fun in what has been a sorry display by the visitors and stretched his wickets tally to eight in the game.

By the time stumps were drawn, Sri Lanka were 83 for 3 - still needing 221 after another top-order failure. It was a classic case of poor application, something that has continuously bothered the visitors in their last four overseas Tests. Make no mistake, Sri Lanka are still in the game, just about, but the fragility of the batting line-up and their recent form doesn't inspire much confidence.

The Sri Lankan top-order, set a daunting challenge, should have looked at the application from Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock. With the lead 170 at the end of the second day, Sri Lanka needed quick wickets right at the start. However, both de Kock and du Plessis played some crisp strokes to ease the pressure and take the lead past 200. De Kock's positive strokeplay not only transferred the pressure on the visitors, but it also gave du Plessis the much-needed cushion to settle in early on.

De Kock raced to his half-century off 56 balls - his second in the game - as the lead soared to 235. The du Plessis-de Kock collaboration fetched South Africa crucial 96 runs as they bossed the first session. Sri Lanka struggled for close to 90 minutes for the first break and it came through the debutant. Embuldeniya trapped de Kock in front in his second over of the day as South Africa scored 106 runs in the first session.

Once de Kock was dismissed, it was du Plessis's turn to guide the innings forward. He brought up his first Test half-century at the venue - off 108 deliveries - and took the team past 250. The collapse started when Vernon Philander missed a straight one from Embuldeniya to lose his off stump. Du Plessis was trapped in front by Fernando after the South Africa captain offered no shot to fall for a 182-ball 90. There was nothing really from there on from South Africa's lower order but the template of the du Plessis innings was what Sri Lanka needed to follow.

Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne made a steady start to keep the hosts on their toes. They scored 42 for the opening wicket but it took the pacers just five deliveries to change the complexion of the scoreboard. Thirimanne, like in the first innings, fell trying to play a flashy drive. He was caught at second slip by du Plessis chasing a wide one from Kagiso Rabada in the 16th over. Soon after, Karunaratne was dismissed lbw by Philander.

Kusal Mendis was dismissed for an eight-ball duck. Duanne Olivier banged one outside off and the right-hander tried a ramp shot only to edge it to the 'keeper. Bad light forced an early end to the day and South Africa walked out a much happier side. Sri Lanka still have a mountain to climb with their hopes firmly pinned on Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva to produce a miracle.

Brief scores: South Africa 235 & 259 (Faf du Plessis 90; Lasith Embuldeniya 5-66) lead Sri Lanka 191 & 83/3 (Vernon Philander 1-13) by 221 runs.

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