Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa a beleaguered team shorn of their first-choice bowling attack and light on experience in the middle order but after the end of the first day, they are ahead of hosts.
Temba Bavuma and Faf du Plessis added 72 to steady a floundering innings, while Quinton de Kock's counter-attacking 80 papered over some of the cracks as South Africa went in with just six specialist batsmen. Vishwa Fernando and Kasun Rajitha, who had a combined experience of seven Tests, had a hand (or a boot) in eight of the 10 wickets as South Africa were bowled out for 235 just under an hour into the final session.
Fernando picked up 4 for 62, while Rajitha had 3 for 68 to rattle rest of South Africa's batting. Then with the bat, Dimuth Karunaratne, the captain, and Oshada Fernando - one of two Sri Lankan debutants - reduced the deficit to 186 by taking Sri Lanka to 49 for 1 when bad light forced stumps with 15 minutes of play still left.
Given the new ball, Vishwa removed both South African openers inside the first 10 overs of the day and might have had a third if not for a DRS timing error by umpire Aleem Dar. But Amla couldn't capitalize, as Suranga Lakmal had him caught at second slip by Kusal Mendis. It looked like South Africa were in danger of not reaching the 200 marks. Dale Steyn contributed a couple of lusty drives to a 33-run partnership with de Kock that helped them get there
In reply,Under leaden grey skies and with Steyn, Philander, Rabada and Duanne Olivier to contend with, the challenge for Sri Lanka's openers was not an easy one and Thirimanne clung on for 15 run-less balls before he fished at a delivery angled across him by Steyn to present a dipping edge to de Kock. However, Karunaratne and Fernando resisted all that South Africa threw at them thereafter.
Stumps Sri Lanka 49 for 1 (Karunaratne 28*, Steyn 1-10) trail South Africa 235 all out (de Kock 80, Bavuma 47, Vishwa 4-62) by 186 runs