South Africa's bowlers should take a leaf out of the Sri Lankan book as they seek to wrap up their two-match Test series, Dean Elgar said after the second day of the second Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Monday.
Sri Lanka finished in a precarious position – five runs ahead with six second-innings wickets standing - but Elgar gave credit to a spirited fightback by the tourists.
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne ensured his team would avoid an innings defeat by making 91 not out as the tourists reached 150 for four at the close.
"There's quite a lot in the surface and I don't think we exploited it much in the second innings, South African centurian Elgar said. "If you just keep the ball on off stump there's something there."
By contrast, Sri Lanka produced a superbly disciplined performance as they took South Africa's last nine wickets for 84 to restrict the hosts to a first innings lead of 145.
South Africa's collapse seemed unlikely when Elgar (127) and Rassie van der Dussen (67) scored 68 runs off 14 overs in the first hour of the day. Their second-wicket stand was worth 184 before the mid-morning drinks break brought a change in fortunes, with both batsmen dismissed in the two overs after drinks.
Elgar, who made 95 in South Africa's innings win in the first Test at Centurion, completed his 13th Test century after starting the day on 92. He hit 22 fours in a 163-ball innings.
Left-arm opening bowler Vishwa Fernando took five for 101, his first five-wicket haul in Tests.
"Credit to the way Sri Lanka bowled," said Elgar. "They attacked off stump and fourth stump and adjusted their lengths really well. They bowled quite a few very good balls."
But Elgar said he was confident South Africa could complete a 2-0 series win.
"Of late, we've been in quite a few tough positions so we've got to enjoy this position we're in now," he said.
Fernando said he was "really happy" with his performance. "The bowling group did a really good job."
Fernando said the bowlers had not been consistent enough as Elgar and Van der Dussen built their partnership, a second-wicket record against Sri Lanka.
"We had a bad time and bowled balls in bad areas that went for boundaries. But we came back strong. We had some chat and bowled some good areas."
Karunaratne, one of five left-handers in the Sri Lankan top six, made his 91 not out off 116 balls with 17 fours.
He and Lahiru Thirimanne, who scored 31, put on 85 for the second wicket. They came together after Kusal Perera had been bowled with only one run scored.
Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi took the first three wickets to finish the day with three for 26, having Thirimanne and Kusal Mendis caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock off successive deliveries. It was the third successive nought by Mendis.