The final day of the first Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Galle could be a cracker after the Proteas' aggressive declaration was matched by a brave start to the fourth innings from Kumar Sangakkara.
After getting in to bat early on Day 4, Hashim Amla's men added 206 for six wickets in just over 50 overs, setting Sri Lanka 370 for victory in around four sessions.
Dale Steyn struck an early blow, but thereafter Sangakkara and Kaushal Silva made excellent progress to stumps at 110-1.
With 260 runs needed and 90 overs and nine wickets to get them, the game is very much in the balance.
Sri Lanka were able to add just nine runs before Morne Morkel ended the innings with the wicket of Suranga Lakmal.
|South Africa 2nd Innings|
|Elgar||c Chandimal||b Herath||12||41||29|
|Petersen||c Chandimal||b D Perera||32||78||63|
|du Plessis||b Herath||37||100||78|
|Amla||c Tharanga||b D Perera||22||25||24|
|de Villiers||b D Perera||51||79||58|
|de Kock||c and b D Perera||36||52||40|
|Extras||0nb 0w 4b 4lb||8|
|Total||for 6 (50.2 ovs)||206|
With a lead of 163 from the first innings, it was up to Amla and the team to set up a match-winning position.
They were helped by Shaminda Eranga's finger injury preventing him from bowling, and skipper Angelo Mathews also did not feature in the attack.
It left a sizeable workload on the shoulders of spinner Rangana Herath, who opened the bowling, and Dilruwan Perera, who responded with four wickets.
Openers Dean Elgar and Alviro Petersen were steady but both fell after starts, while the middle order of Amla (22 from 24), AB de Villiers (51 from 58) and Quinton de Kock (36 from 40) provided the acceleration.
The declaration came early and was a show of confidence in the Proteas attack.
|Sri Lanka 2nd Innings|
|Tharanga||c de Kock||b Steyn||14||7||13|
|K Silva||not out||37||131||90|
|Extras||0nb 0w 0b 1lb||1|
|Total||for 1 (32.0 ovs)||110|
But after Steyn had Upul Tharanga caught behind early on, Sangakkara and Silva counter-attacked. As South Africa had done before them, they advanced at around four runs an over.
Seam was withdrawn from the attack, and Imran Tahir was sent in to bowl—but after a spell of pressure, Sangakkara released the shackles with a four and a six, laden with authority.
As Sangakkara passed 1,000 runs in Tests for the calendar year, the momentum swung back the way of the hosts for the first time in the series.
This is the 5th calendar year in which Kumar Sangakkara has scored 1000+ Test runs - 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014. #SLvSA— Cricket Record (@cricinfo_record) July 19, 2014
While 260 runs for victory is still plenty to get on a Day 5 pitch, all three results are now possible.