England in SA

England refusing to lie down as Proteas seek Centurion triumph

2019-12-28 17:32
Anrich Nortje (left) and Rassie van der Dussen (Ga
Anrich Nortje (left) and Rassie van der Dussen (Gallo).

Centurion - South Africa put themselves in what appeared to be an unassailable position on Day 3 of the first Test against England at Centurion on Saturday, but English resistance with the bat has made things interesting heading into the penultimate day. 

SCORECARD | Proteas v England, 1st Test

When play resumes on Sunday, the visitors will start on 121/1, needing another 255 for victory and their highest-ever successful run chase in Test cricket. 

Having added 200 to their overnight total for the loss of their last six wickets - thanks largely to a 91-run stand for the fifth wicket between Rassie van der Dussen (51 off 65) and night-watchman Anrich Nortje (40 off 89) - the Proteas were bowled all out for 272 to set their English visitors a highly improbable 376 - for what would be a miraculous victory. 

There was no joy for the Proteas new ball bowlers this time, though, as the English opening pair of Rory Burns (77*) and Dom Sibley (29 off 90) showed character to take their side to 92 before Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj (1/16) got the all-important breakthrough to dismiss Sibley. 

South Africa are still overwhelming favourites to get the job done on Sunday, but the events of Kingsmead back in February where Sri Lanka and Kusal Perera put on 78 for the 10th wicket to chase down an unlikely 304 for victory will serve as a stern reminder that this is not over yet. 

On a day where sickness continued to plague the English dressing room - Jos Buttler and captain Joe Root are the latest suffers - South Africa would have hoped for more given the efficiency with which their seam machine operated in the first innings. 

Still, this new era of South African cricket should get off to a much-needed winning start that would snap a five-match losing streak in the format. 

Having started the day on 72/4 and 175 runs ahead, the Proteas were looking to bat England out of the game under overcast skies and with the wicket having suggested all through the Test that batting would be difficult. 

England, as a result, felt that they were still very much in the Test as Van der Dussen and Nortje walked out to the middle, but they could not have predicted the resistance they would find in the form of Nortje. 

Having batted at No 11 in the first innings, Nortje was brave if not always comfortable against the English pace attack and he started finding his feet - and the fence - as the morning progressed. 

At the other end, Van der Dussen was busy, rotating the strike with quick singles and showing sound composure when the English went short at him. 

By drinks after the first hour, the South African pair had added 61 runs without loss as English heads began to drop. It was a partnership that looked to have taken the contest beyond England. 

Van der Dussen on debut, having spanked Stuart Broad for back-to-back boundaries with a pair of text-book cover drives, then went to a maiden Test 50 from just 65 balls. 

The celebrations were short-lived, however, and he was out for 51 when Jofra Archer had him trapped LBW with a ball that was clipping the leg stump. 

That brought Quinton de Kock to the wicket, with Centurion in for some first-class entertainment from two of the game's best. 

Archer had Nortje (40 off 89) snapped up at short leg while Dwaine Pretorius (7 off 7) also came and went, but De Kock was not about to stand down. 

In what became a fascinating battle, South Africa's wicketkeeper launched Archer for three sixes and a four in no time. Archer persisted with a short length, looking to bounce De Kock out with his pace, but he was met with a fearless approach. 

It got the Proteas through to 197/7 at lunch with De Kock 30* (17) at the time. 

He slowed down after the break and was out caught behind off Ben Stokes for 34 (37) to leave South Africa on 220/8. 

Vernon Philander, meanwhile, was playing another gem of an innings that re-emphasised his value to this side as a bowling all-rounder. 

Maharaj stuck around for 11 before he was out hooking Archer (5/102) to the fine leg fence while Kagiso Rabada (16* off 12) joined the fray to play a handy little cameo.

Philander was eventually out for a valuable 46 (68) as the South African innings ended at 272 all out, leaving England a target of 376 for victory. 

The Proteas, after a quick fielding drill, gathered in a huddle and then went into a 20-minute session before tea hopeful that they could make inroads. 

Rabada, for the second time in the match, thought he had a wicket in his first over when Burns was given out LBW only for a review to show that the ball was missing off-stump. It was another blemish for the umpires who have been poor all Test.

After that early scare, the English openers got through to tea in one piece and then kicked on afterwards to bring up a 50-partnership. 

Burns was dropped by Van der Dussen when he was on 20, while Sibley was patient and measured at the other end. 

It was Maharaj who finally gave the Proteas something to celebrate when he removed Sibley, who chipped a ball back to the bowler. 

When play gets underway on Sunday, Burns and Joe Denly (10*) will be at the crease. 

Scores in brief:

SA 284 (De Kock 95, Broad 4/58, Curran 4/58) and 272 (Van der Dussen 51, Philander 46, Nortje 40, Archer 5/102)

England 181 (Burns 50, Philander 4/16, Rabada 3/68) and 121/1 (Burns 77*, Maharaj 1/16)

England require another 255 runs to win with 9 second innings wickets in hand 

Read more on:    proteas  |  centurion  |  cricket


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