England needed someone to put their hand up and play a Ben Stokes-esque innings if they are to have a chance of getting close to the target of 376. Fortunately for them, opening batsmen Rory Burns and Dom Sibley have laid a solid foundation, which might give England a glimmer of hope going into stumps on Day Three of the first Test against South Africa at Centurion at 121 for 1. Burns who scored his sixth Test fifty today was given a reprieve when Rassie van der Dussen dropped him at slip when he was batting on 20.
The visitors are still 255 runs away from a famous victory, while South Africa need nine more wickets to ensure that they do not lose their third Test at this venue.
Burns and Sibley during the course of their partnership (92) put on the highest opening wicket stand for England in Tests this year, going past the Burns-Keaton Jennings stand of 85 against West Indies at Barbados earlier this year. They put on 92 runs for the first wicket and it was Keshav Maharaj who dismissed Sibley caught and bowled for a patient 90-ball 29.
Burns has showed great application in this innings so far and he remains unbeaten on 77, while Joe Denly, who has the lowest false shot percentage (14.7) after Stokes (13) in this match remains unbeaten on 10, to go with his half-century in the first innings.
Earlier in the day, South African pair of van der Dussen and nightwatchman Anrich Nortje continued to frustrate England as they partnership that could have potentially taken the match away from the hosts, stretching the hosts’ lead past 250. Van der Dussen got to his maiden fifty on his Test debut – off 65 deliveries – and looked assured throughout the course of the innings. Their partnership of 91 for the fifth wicket eventually came to an end when Stuart Broad trapped van der Dussen in front for 51 – making him the first-ever player to score a fifty on Test, ODI and T20I debuts.
Nortje too was approaching his maiden Test fifty and was joined by Quinton de Kock, who continued from where he left off, striking Jofra Archer over the long leg fence twice in as many deliveries, making his intentions clear right from the outset. With the lights at SuperSport Park declining, South Africa were in pursuit of some quick runs. However, Nortje hit one straight to the short-leg fielder, giving Archer his fourth wicket of the innings. England quicks – Broad and Archer – by then had already resorted to bowling short from around the wicket to the left-hander and the right-handed batsmen.
After scoring 95 and plucking six catches in the first innings, de Kock once again troubled South Africa with his aggressive strokeplay with Archer being his prime target.
Despite losing three wickets, the first session belonged to South Africa, having accumulated 125 more runs at a run-rate of 5.21, which has all but taken the match away from England. The lead too had gone past the 300-run mark.
De Kock’s cameo came to an end soon after lunch, but Philander and Keshav Maharaj further added to England’s woes by putting on 30 for the ninth wicket, before the latter became Archer’s fifth wicket of the innings – his third in Tests.
Sam Curran picked up the final South African wicket to fall – that of Philander for 46 – but not before conceding a lead of 375 runs.
This highest successful fourth innings run-chase at Centurion was 249, which England made against South Africa in 2000. England could better this record if they continue to bat like they did today on Day Four.
South Africa 284 (Quinton de Kock 95, Zubayr Hamza 39; Sam Curran 4 for 58, Stuart Broad 4 for 58) & 272 (Rassie van der Dussen 51, Vernon Philander 46; Jofra Archer 5 for 102, Ben Stokes 2 for 22) lead England 181 (Joe Denly 50, Ben Stokes 35; Vernon Philander 4 for 16, Kagiso Rabada 3 for 68) & 121 for 1 (Rory Burns 77*, Dom Sibley 29; Keshav Maharaj 1 for 16) by 254 runs