Get your defense in order, but when the ball is there to hit, make sure you score. That’s Hashim Amla‘s advice to himself and his teammates after an abysmal second day, in which they found themselves 6 for 51 at one stage, before eventually crashing to 126 not out. As is often the case in Galle, the spinners have ruled, and the ball is pouncing off the dusty surace.
The conditions are difficult, but as Dimuth Karunaratne has proved with 218 runs in the match, the surface is not quite unplayable. Amla wants to emulate Karunaratne a little, as South Africa contemplate a mammoth task in the second innings. They are already 272 runs in arrears, and Sri Lanka still have six second-innings wickets left.
“If a couple of us have a good partnership and one of us plays like Karunaratne played, that would get us close to that score,” Amla said. “You’ve got to have a decent defence to keep out the good ball, and you’ve got to look to score. You’ve got to marry the two as best as possible, with an element of fortune here and there, to get good results.”
Although South Africa were bowled out in less than 55 overs, there was no shortage of application from South Africa’s batsmen, Amla said. The scoreline, for him, was largely a result of the conditions. South Africa had faced similar spin challenges in India, in 2015, and had lost that series 3-0. But even having been through that experience, Amla did not fault the batsmen’s approach.
“The way that everybody played, I think they applied themselves as best as they can,” Amla said. “Batters from both teams found it difficult to bat, barring one or two batters – Karunaratne batted exceptionally well, which basically got them to their score in the first innings. Into the second innings, you’ve got to keep playing with good intent and learning. We’ve played in conditions like this before, and they are low scoring games. You don’t get scores of 350, 400 or 550. These are scores of 250, 200 – that type of thing. You do take some learning from the first innings, but you’ve got to play the way the pitch allows you to play.”
Amla, though stopped short of suggesting that the Galle surface favoured spin unfairly. When Sri Lanka had last toured South Africa, captain Faf du Plessis had spoken publicly about producing surfaces that neutralised Rangana Herath. The conditions in Galle were roughly what South Africa had expected, Amla said.
“When you play in South Africa, you get the balls that beat the bat from the seamers – the ball nips around. Here you get the ball that turns and bounces and gets the edge, and you miss as well. It’s always going to be home ground advantage. Sri Lanka has more quality spinners. That’s how it is.”