GALLE, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka left-hander Kumar Sangakkara led a steady charge Saturday toward a challenging 370-run target after South Africa declared on the fourth day of the first test.
The former captain was unbeaten on 58 with one six and seven fours as Sri Lanka reached 110-1 at stumps on Saturday, needing another 260 runs on the last day with nine wickets still in hand.
Sangakkara added 96 runs for the unbroken second wicket with Kaushal Silva 37 not out as Sri Lanka suddenly found itself competing after being dominated till before the final session of play.
South Africa, which gained a 163-run first innings lead earlier in the day, declared on 206-6 at tea to set up the contest.
A target in excess of 300 has never been chased at Galle as the pitch is known to help spin bowlers as the match progresses.
But South African spinners Imran Tahir and Jean-Paul Duminy have failed to trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen, with Sangakkara especially playing them with ease and hitting strokes all around the ground.
Sangakkara got to his 49th half-century in 125 tests as he struck two fours to the leg side off leg-spinner Imran Tahir to move from 45 to 53. Quick to dispatch anything loose, he also hit a six off a full toss.
Earlier, South Africa got some quick runs after lunch that enabled it to declare with four sessions still left in the game.
A.B. de Villiers made a speedy 51 in a competitive second session as South Africa added 143 runs while Sri Lanka bagged four wickets.
De Villiers hit six fours off 58 deliveries during his 36th half century, taking charge after Faf du Plessis (37) and captain Hashim Amla (22) failed to get big knocks with both out after lunch.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera bagged 4-79 and was supported well by left-arm spinner Rangana Herath who took 2-84.
In the morning, Sri Lanka added just nine runs to its overnight first-innings score before losing its last wicket and finishing on 292, well short of South Africa's first innings 455-9 declared.
Last-man Shaminda Eranga, who came in to bat for Sri Lanka despite a hand injury that restricted his pace bowling to just nine overs in the first innings of the match, remained not out on 1.
Morkel finished with 3-49 while Dale Steyn remained the most successful bowler for South Africa with 5-54.