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Philander strangulation puts Proteas on victory path

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South Africa took 12 wickets in the day to put themselves within reach of a series-clinching victory on the third day of the third Sunfoil Test match against Sri Lanka at Sahara Park Newlands on Thursday. It was an impressive all-round bowling performance in which the wickets were shared by the five-man attack and supported by some fine catches from Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis among others. At the close of play Sri Lanka were 138/4 in their follow on innings and still need a further 203 to make the Proteas bat again.

The Proteas will also be encouraged by the fact that the second new ball will become available in 27 overs' time.

Although the wickets were shared and were indicative of the good balance and variety the Proteas now have to their attack, if any one performer could be singled out it was again Vernon Philander who produced a dream spell of six overs in the morning session to take 1/3. Together with Imran Tahir he conceded just 15 runs while 13 overs were bowled and it was this strangulation that opened the door for Dale Steyn, Philander and Morne Morkel to clean up the lower order.

Philander certainly deserved more than one wicket in that spell although he did get the consolation of the wicket of visiting captain Tillekeratne Dilshan at the start of the follow on innings.

Imran produced a level of consistency that was missing from his game at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead and could also have taken more than the three wickets that came his way. It has put him three wickets away from the significant career milestone of 600 first-class wickets (while representing 20 different teams!) which will be something worth celebrating.

Philander's performance here has shown how much he was missed in Durban. Apart from being a genuine strike bowler he also has the ability to stop the game from a runs-scoring point of view and is a 16-carat gold player for any captain to have up his sleeve.

If Philander is having a dream start to his Test match career then Kallis is having a dream New Year at his beloved Newlands.

Having already contributed 224 runs with the bat he has added three excellent slip catches (the low one to get rid of Thilan Samaraweera in the first innings was particularly good) plus a wicket.

The roar he got from the Newlands Faithful when he came on to bowl his first spell of the match is normally reserved for the fall of a wicket or for one of his hallmark drives.

Sri Lanka have a very difficult task to save this match. All the batsmen with proven records of batting for hours on end are now back in the pavilion for the second time in the match.

What Thursday's play did confirm is that they have a gem in Dinesh Chandimal who will probably eventually follow the route of Kumar Sangakkara in giving up the gloves to become a major batsman in their top four. He probably needs to move up the order already as he is spending too much time running out of reliable partners.