South African spinner Keshav Maharaj ruffled hosts Sri Lanka, recording career-best figures of eight for 116 on the first day of the second Test on Friday.
The Sri Lankans were restricted to 277 for nine at the end of day’s play at the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds.
While Sri Lanka’s openers dominated the first session with a 116-run partnership, their first 100 plus partnership since October 2016, Maharaj nipped out both Dimuth Karunaratne and Danushka Gunathilaka in successive overs and gave another jolt to the hosts, renowned for playing spin, when he sent back Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews for mere 21 and 10, respectively.
The spinner then went on to scalp five wickets in the final session to put South Africa in the driver’s seat, reducing Sri Lanka to 264 for nine. South Africa then tried to bundle out the hosts but tailenders Rangana Herath and Akila Dananjaya survived the probing attack to score 277/9 on the opening day.
Maharaj’s figures (8/58) was the best ever figures for a South African spinner in the sub-continent and for a visiting spinner in Sri Lanka. It was also the third-best match figures against Sri Lanka following Imran Khan’s eight for 58 in 1982 and Shannon Gabriel’s eight for 62 at St. Lucia last month.