South African opening batsman Dean Elgar said the momentum had swung back to the host team after a free-scoring second day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.

The left-handed Elgar scored 95 and shared an opening stand of 141 with Aiden Markram (68) to set South Africa on the way to 317/4 at the close in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 396.

The runs were scored off only 72 overs against a depleted Sri Lankan bowling attack.

“It was a rewarding day for all of us today, we really changed the momentum throughout the day and potentially had the momentum back in our change room after what was a very tough day for us yesterday,” said Elgar.

From being well behind the game after the Sri Lankan innings, South Africa could look forward with confidence to the rest of the match, according to Elgar, who said his team would be looking to secure a first innings lead of more than 100.

“It’s going to be hard graft but our chat in the change room has been about maybe batting once on this wicket, knowing what SuperSport Park is like,” he said, referring to the ground’s reputation for uneven bounce later in a match.

“That first hour (on Monday) is massive, knowing the new ball is coming in the morning,” said Elgar. The new ball will be due eight overs into the day.

Sri Lanka went into the match without leading fast bowler Suranga Lakmal because of a hamstring strain and suffered a major blow when opening bowler Kasun Rajitha limped off the field with what appeared to be a groin injury after bowling one ball in his third over.

‘Hard’ with a bowler short

Sri Lanka were already without batsman Dhananjaya de Silva who was ruled out of the rest of the series after suffering a grade two tear in his left thigh which forced him to retire hurt after scoring 79 on Saturday.

With De Silva also a capable off-spin bowler, the tourists were reduced to a four-man attack, which included Dasun Shanaka, bowling at a gentle medium pace, and debutant leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.

As had been the case with the inexperienced South African bowlers, the Sri Lankans struggled to find consistency and the batsmen took advantage of some loose bowling, striking a total of 48 boundaries in 72 overs.

“We are down one bowler so it is a responsibility to bowl more overs,” said all-rounder Shanaka, who had to come into the attack in the sixth over when Rajitha broke down. “It is hard but it is Test cricket.”

Shanaka followed up a flamboyant innings of 66 not out by bowling 16.5 overs and taking the wicket of Elgar when he held a sharp return catch.

“We are still in with a chance,” said Shanaka. “The morning plan will be to bowl wicket to wicket and when the new ball comes hopefully get wickets.”

Elgar and Markram made batting look easy but Sri Lanka briefly fought back when Rassie van der Dussen and Elgar fell in successive overs to make the total 200 for three, while South African captain Quinton de Kock fell four overs later after making a quick 18.

Former captain Faf du Plessis (55 not out) and Temba Bavuma (41 not out) put on an unbeaten 97 for the fifth wicket as South Africa scored at better than four runs an over throughout their innings.