Dickwella Drives Sri Lanka Towards 400

The last time Sri Lanka handed a Test debut to a young wicketkeeper, Dinesh Chandimal responded with a couple of sparky half-centuries that were crucial to their celebrated win over South Africa in Durban. This time Niroshan Dickwella, who earlier this week was in England with the A side and not even in the Test squad, responded with a similarly enterprising half-century that drove Sri Lanka towards 400 at the SSC.

Dickwella, a schoolboy star like the man with whom he put on a century stand, Mahela Jayawardene, ensured Sri Lanka remained the side in charge. Jayawardene began the day unbeaten on 140 at his favourite ground, and Dickwella was in his first Test innings facing the pace of Steyn and Morkel, but it was the youngster who dominated the opening hour.

There were plenty of signs of his confidence on the big stage. In the 97th over, he played a deliberate upper cut over slips off Morne Morkel on seeing that third man was square. The next delivery was tucked to the fine-leg boundary. As Dickwella ambled down the track keeping his eye on the ball, he bumped into Morkel, who responded with a shove. Dickwella doesn't even reach shoulder high for the towering Morkel, but his concentration didn't waver even after that encounter.

He skipped down the track to launch Vernon Philander over mid-on, and a delivery after Imran Tahir got the ball to rip from the rough, Dickwella countered with the reverse-sweep.

At the other end, Jayawardene was continuing with his silken batting - the blade barely passed the vertical as he coaxed a full ball from Steyn to the long-on boundary. Fifty-six runs came in the first hour, and South African spirits were beginning to sag.

As has been the case so often, South Africa got a lift with an outstanding bit of fielding. Alviro Petersen fired in a direct hit from fine leg to catch Jayawardene short on 160. A stylish innings ended with Jayawardene on his knees and desperately scrambling to complete the second.

South Africa's spinners got some turn on the second morning, but that won't be too comforting a sight for the visitors as they will have to bat last on this surface, and against a side that has three specialist spinners.

(Cricinfo)

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