It’s a bit of pie in the sky stuff but South Africa, heading into the final day of the second test against England on 126 for two, need a further 312 runs for victory with eight wickets in the bank.
What a victory that would be! Wouldn’t it? But wait, this is test cricket, not an ODI and it is the fifth day where the rough will play a big part when Dominic Bess, Joe Root and even Joe Denly turn their arm over.
South Africa have chased down 438 to win a game before, but that was against Australia at the Wanderers in Johannesburg in a one day international.
The highest total ever successfully chased down in a test match is 418 which the West Indies achieved – against Australia – at St John’s in Antigua way back in 2003. In that match, Ramnaresh Sarwan (105) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (104) both scored centuries.
But in that game, the West Indies were 371 for six at the end of day four and needed just another 47 runs to win on the final day – South Africa need 312!
It would be a massive feat if the Proteas were to achieve, considering the amount of runs needed on the final day and it would take massive investment from the likes of the already set debutante, Pieter Malan, who will resume on 63 alongside nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj on 2.
With the gritty Dean Elgar (34) already back in the hut and the young Zubayr Hamza (18) being dismissed just before the close of play yesterday, captain Faf du Plessis will need to step up and play the innings of his life – a captain’s knock so to speak, while support from Rassie van der Dussen, who scored 68 in the first innings, as well as wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock will be vital to the cause.
The majority of people think that the final day on Tuesday will be all about survival – denying England wickets at every given chance and it is these people, including myself, that tell the handful of hopefuls to “forget about trying to win the game, it is impossible”…or is it?
Batting consultant and Proteas great, Jacques Kallis, said at the end of day four that “if we just bat normally and not give away our wickets cheaply, then we will see where we are at tea and maybe have a go from there. But everybody will need to chip in.”
The highest total chased down at Newlands in the fourth innings to win a game is 334 for six, by Australia against the Proteas in 2002 so if those handful of people turn out to be correct, then the feat of chasing down 438 at Newlands will be massive.
The other point to consider – not just a very improbable victory – is that should the Proteas bat out the final day and save the test match to remain 1-0 up in the four-match series, is the fact that a draw here will feel more like a win to SA and a metaphorical defeat for England after having taken control of the test at the end of day 2.
Malan’s highest first class total is 211* and the Proteas would love a maiden test century from the right-handed opener. Du Plessis might just need to better his test-nest of 137 while Van der Dussen could add, to his already growing test stature, a century to his name.
Come what may when the final hour of play is called at 5pm on Tuesday afternoon, if the Proteas are close, with maybe De Kock, Van der Dussen or even Du Plessis at the crease, then they will certainly have a go – provided that the calculation of losing whatever wickets in hand they may have, don’t give England a chance at leveling the series.
Who needs the reality TV show “Survivor” – just come watch the Proteas on day five!