A totally dominant England performance on day three of the second test took their overall lead over South Africa to 264 runs as the visitors closed the day out on 218 for four at PPC Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday.
Dom Sibley (85 not out) was in sublime form, striking 13 boundaries in 348 minutes at the crease and was instrumental in the third-wicket stand of 116 with captain Joe Root (61) but South Africa tasted success late in the day as out of nowhere, Dwaine Pretorius (12-3-34-1) had Root caught at first slip by Faf du Plessis. Root’s dismissal brought in Dominic Bess (0) as a night watchman.
“It was a great innings from him. Technically, a lot of people have been talking about him but today he showed a lot a discipline outside the offstump with the new ball, which I think is very important on this wicket,” said Mark Boucher at the end of the day’s play.
“We showed some real grit at the top of the order. Sibley played brilliantly and Rooty came in and played quite positively,” said England’s most capped fast bowler, James Anderson.
But Bess’ introduction to the fray brought Anrich Nortje (15-2-36-2) into the attack. The plan to bowl short and around the wicket worked and Bess, trying to fend off a short ball down the legside, got a feint glove on the ball and De Kock took the catch to end the day’s play with South Africa having a little hope.
“It was a tough day of cricket but it is better walking into the changeroom with them four down than two down,” said the South African coach.
Despite the loss of Root and Bess’s wicket, the visitors were in total control after having wrapped up the South African tail within three overs this morning. South Africa resumed their overnight score on 215 for eight but James Anderson (19-6-40-5) removed Kagiso Rabada (0) with the first ball of the morning and then in his next over, had Nortje (4) caught by Ben Stokes in the slip cordon, giving Stokes his fifth catch of the innings, a first for England.
“It is what I have missed, a good, proper, hard day of test cricket. A real battle with Elgar and Van der Dussen when they put their partnership together and that is why I still want to play test cricket,” said Anderson after spending months away from the game.
England then started their second innings briskly, with a lead of 46, with Zak Crawley (25) striking five boundaries before driving at a ball from Rabada (13-3-41-1) and edging to De Kock behind the stumps. However, Sibley and Joe Denly (31) carried their side through to the lunchbreak, going into the shed on 52 for one, and an overall lead of 98.
The post-lunch session belonged to the visitors entirely as Sibley and Denly added a further 49 runs to their second-wicket stand before Nortje had Denly hooking a short ball down to Pretorius at fine leg, who took a great catch. Sibley and Root continued building – at times slowly – but driving the South African attack into the ground.
“The ball got really soft. Our guys put quite a bit in already and the crack from the Wynberg end did not misbehave as we thought it would and maybe that is because the conditions changed a bit. Vern was also not feeling well so he was not bowling at full tilt,” said Boucher.
“The guys out there said it felt flatter and strangely, like Centurion, when the clouds came in it flattens out unlike in England. We just hope for some sun so that the wicket can deteriorate. But we need to bat well first and then think about a declaration,” said Anderson of the pitch.
Root went past 1000 test runs against South Africa in the process, bringing up his 46th test half-century while Sibley enjoyed his maiden test fifty. Root struck seven boundaries in his 98-ball knock which lasted 154 minutes. At tea, South Africa were staring down the barrel as England went to tea at 109 for two and a lead of 155.
Sibley and Root continued after tea and only in the final half hour, did the South African attack find anything to cheer about as they dismissed both Root and Bess, leaving Sibley and new man Ben Stokes to push the lead beyond 300.
“After the first two days I say we would not want to chase more than 250 but the way the wicket played today, if we chase anything around 330 or 340 then that would be great,” commented Boucher on the potential chase.
“It is hard to say and if the wicket is as flat is as flat as it was today then I think we would want minimum 350 plus but then again if it deteriorates then we in the game now,” added Anderson.
England won the toss on Friday and elected to bat first with Ollie Pope top-scoring with an unbeaten 61 in 199 minutes at the crease. Pope struck seven boundaries from 144 deliveries as he shepherded the lower order to what now seems a decent first innings total of 269 all out.
Many of the England batsmen made starts but then lost their wickets at crucial times with Sibley (34), Denly (38) and captain Joe Root (35) all getting out in the 30’s. Stokes looked aggressive in his 77-ball knock of 47 before giving his wicket away to Nortje (18-2-56-2), who also accounted for Root’s wicket.
Vernon Philander (16-3-46-2), playing in his final Newlands test match, had removed Crawley (4) early before Denly and Sibley added 55 for the second wicket. Rabada (19.5-3-68-3) accounted for Sibley’s wicket just before lunch on day one as England entered the changeroom at 67 for two. The visitors progressed to 149 for four at tea with Stokes and Pope looking to take the day by the scruff of the neck.
But Nortje’s dismissal of Stokes and the double strike from Dwaine Pretorius (11-5-26-2) just before the new ball was due, changed the momentum of the innings. Rabada and Philander then claimed the wickets of Stuart Broad (1) and Dominic Bess (1) respectively as England ended the first day on 262 for nine.
Rabada quickly wrapped up the England innings with the wicket of Anderson (4) before losing three quick wickets in reply before lunch on day two. Broad (18-6-38-2) dismissed debutante Pieter Malan (5) and Zubayr Hamza (5) before Anderson had the captain, Faf du Plessis caught by Stokes in the slips for a single.
“I was disappointed when we were in a pickle at 40 for three but then I thought we really worked hard to get ourselves out of that. The game was really on the edge and it was about who was going to crack first and unfortunately, we did,” added Boucher of South Africa’s first innings effort.
Dean Elgar (88) and Rassie van der Dussen (68) then consolidated the innings with a wonderful and hard-fought fourth-wicket stand of 117 to take the home side past tea but then the wheels came off as offspinner Bess (27-3-62-1) claimed the wicket of Elgar. Left-arm seamer Sam Curran (13-3-39-2) then dismissed both Van der Dussen and De Kock (20) to leave South Africa on 200 for six.
With the new ball in hand, Anderson then ripped through the lower-order, dismissing Pretorius (4) and Keshav Maharaj (4) to leave the hosts on 215 for eight and a mountain to climb on the third morning.
**first published on www.supersport.com