Standard Bank Proteas batsman, Hashim Amla, says partnerships will be crucial ahead of a high fourth innings chase in the first Test match against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium. The home side holds a strong lead of 272 runs with six wickets remaining, after a dominant performance with the ball led by off-spinner Dilruwan Perera (4/46) on day two.

Amla says the batsmen will have to look to play with more ‘intent’ to counter Sri Lanka’s spin threat in their second innings, after the poor first innings performance of 126 all out. All of the batsmen in the top six are capable of playing long attritional knocks, which is the only way for a positive result with three days left in the match.

“ Yes, 272 runs on that type of wicket is a lot of runs,” he admitted after the day’s play. “ If we can look to restrict them under 320 it will be a good target for us. If we can get a few good partnerships and one of us plays an innings like Karunaratne played it will get us close to that score.

“ Any of the batsmen in the top six would love to occupy the crease for a long time to score the runs and to get us to the total we have to chase,” he said. “ Myself and everyone else would like to get stuck in and bat for as long as possible.”

The wristy right-hander, who is one of the most successful players of spin in the current squad, believes the key to success against Sri Lanka’s spin wizards is a game plan of solid defence and positive scoring options. He expects conditions to deteriorate as the match progresses but remains hopeful the batsmen will have learnt from the errors in the first innings.

“The opener (Karunaratne) batted exceptionally well, it was an excellent knock which got them to the score that they got to,” he said. “It is a tough wicket, you have to capitalise on the loose balls when you do get them and hope that the ball doesn’t have your number on it. You always have to have the intent when you are batting.

“ You have to have decent defence to keep out the good ball, and you have to look to score,” he said of the ways to counter spin. “ If you can combine those two, with a bit of fortune, it gives you the best chance of scoring.

“ The way everyone played, to be honest, I feel they applied themselves as best as they can,” he said. “ Batters from both teams have found it difficult to bat, barring one or two batsmen, so going into the second innings we have to keep playing with good intent and keep learning. We have played in conditions like this before and the scores are low, you don’t get scores of 350 and above. You take some learning from it but you have to play the way the pitch allows you to play.”