England have their tails up after reducing South Africa to 215 for eight at the close of play on day two, a first innings deficit of 54 with only two first innings wickets in hand at PPC Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
“We bowled really well as a group today and we kept the rate down. Hopefully we can get those two wickets in the morning and try and bat for as long as possible and get a big lead,” said Sam Curran at the end of day press conference.
The home side lost five wickets in the afternoon session, four of them at a cost of just 24 runs, after resuming post-tea with their total on 141 for three with Dean Elgar (88) and Rassie van der Dussen (68) well-set with their fourth-wicket partnership worth 101. But persistent line and length from off-spinner Dominic Bess (27-3-62-1) resulted in success as Elgar looked to go after the spinner, but only managing to loft the ball to Joe Root at mid-off.
“I played with him at Somerset and he is a good bowler and he now has some confidence. He differed his pace quite nicely. I just had to be patient and if he over-pitches it then hit it to long-on until that brain fart and then I sat in the changeroom,” said Elgar after the day’s play.
“We may not have taken any wickets in the middle session but we knew the rewards would come if we stuck at it and Bessy did an amazing job the whole day with the reward of Elgar,” said Curran of the work from off-spinner Bess.
Elgar’s innings was excellent considering the nature of the game. Elgar saw all and sundry fall about him in the morning session with debutante Pieter Malan (5), Zubayr Hamza (5) and captain Faf du Plessis (1) all back in the hut with the home side’s total on 40. But he’s 14th test half-century along with the 117-run fourth-wicket stand with Van der Dussen rescued the Proteas from a precarious position.
“There is a crack and some divots outside the right-handers off-stump and we had to negate that somehow, that is why our partnership was a bit slow. It has turned out to be quite a good contest between bat and ball,” said Elgar.
“It is pretty obvious that there is a patch outside off-stump that is doing a bit more against the right-handers but you can still score really well, it’s a great wicket,” said Curran.
Quinton de Kock (20) looked to continue from where he left off from the first test in Centurion, striking two boundaries from 26 deliveries before trying to go after the left-arm pace of Curran (13-2-40-2), only to be caught by James Anderson at mid-off. Van der Dussen’s luck finally ran out after surviving three chances during the day with Ben Stokes taking a good catch at second slip off Curran. Van der Dussen’s innings of 68 is his highest test score following on from his 51 in the second innings of the first test in Centurion.
Van der Dussen survived three times during the day, first being given out LBW against Anderson (16.4-6-34-3) before reviewing the decision and being given not out due to a big inside edge in the 20th over. Eight overs later and Van der Dussen was given a life by Broad as the right-arm fast bowler over-stepped with the catch being taken in the deep. The Stokes put down a catch at second slip off Anderson again during the 46th over but that was the last lady-luck would give Van der Dussen.
“I just had to reassure him and basically refocus and the chance that has gone bye did not affect him,” said Elgar of Van der Dussen’s fortunes with the bat.
With the hosts seeming to be running out of steam, Vernon Philander (13 not out) and Keshav Maharaj tried to steady the ship but Anderson struck in the final over of the day, having Maharaj caught in the slips by Dom Sibley for just 4, leaving South Africa still 54 runs off England’s first innings total of 269.
“It was great for me to watch them (Anderson and Broad) bowl and they didn’t go for many runs which allowed me to get those wickets later in the day and that shows that they are world-class bowlers,” said Curran of Anderson and Broad.
Anderson had struck with the first over of the new ball, having Dwaine Pretorius caught by Stokes, who ended with four catches, at second slip while Philander will be joined by Kagiso Rabada on day three with a mountain to climb.
“We grafted and fought so hard to get into a reasonably good position and then to lose it in the last hour was disappointing. But we knew it was going to be challenging,” noted a disappointed Elgar.
“After the last hour they have one foot ahead of us but it is difficult to look into the future of this game. We have a good battle with ball in hand tomorrow,” ended South Africa’s opening batsman.
South Africa had needed just one wicket to finish off the England innings this morning and allowed the visitors to add just seven runs to their overnight total of 262 for nine when Rabada (19.5-3-68-3) had Anderson (4) caught by Van der Dussen at first slip.
England had won the toss on Friday and elected to bat first but the start was perfect for South Africa as Philander (16-3-46-2), playing in his last home test match, claimed the early wicket of Zak Crawley (4). The Proteas bowled tightly and with discipline but Dom Sibley (34) and Joe Denly (38) still managed to add 55 runs for the second wicket but Rabada broke the stand just before lunch on day one, having Sibley caught behind by Quinton de Kock.
Denly and Root (35) continued building in the middle session but despite losing both wickets to Keshav Maharaj (27-6-68-1) and Anrich Nortje (18-2-56-2) respectively, Stokes (47) and Ollie Pope (61 not out) made sure that the visitors won the second session as England went into the tea-break on 149 for four.
But the final session of the day belonged to South Africa and Dwaine Pretorius (11-5-26-2) in particular as the South African allrounder claimed the wickets of Jos Buttler (29), who was starting to look dangerous, and Sam Curran (9), just before the new ball was due. This after Nortje had claimed the all-important wicket of Stokes, who tamely chipped a ball to Elgar in the cover-region.
Once the new-ball was taken, Philander struck immediately, having Dominic Bess caught behind for a first ball duck before Rabada clean-bowled Broad (1) with a peach of a Yorker. Rabada and South Africa thought they had wrapped up the day with about eight overs remaining in the day’s play when Pope was caught at fine leg by Philander but Rabada had overstepped, leaving Pope to marshal Anderson to the close with England on 262 for nine.