It takes some memory to recollect the last time the ploy of bowling a left-arm spinner from over the wicket worked. While Keshav Maharaj managed to keep Joe Denly and Dom Sibley in check in the afternoon session, Joe Root attacked him post Tea to put the plan to rest.
Deploying the sweep to perfection, Root collected two boundaries off Maharaj through that shot. Put off-track by Root’s aggression, Maharaj added to England’s tally by a four bye and leg-bye apiece - runs significant on a track were run-scoring has not been easy so far.
Contrary to his game of leg-side dominance, Sibley punched Kagiso Rabada on the off-side for four. In the same over he guided him through the region for another couple to bring up his maiden Test match half-century.
Maharaj continued to leak runs in this passage as he was hit for two boundaries in the over, one each by the pair. Dwaine Pretorius, brought in for Rabada too was handled well by Sibley. Growing in confidence, he hit him for back to back boundaries, both sides on the wicket.
The second spell of the session provided no respite for the left-arm spinner. He started with getting hit for four off the first ball by Sibley. Root drew a sweep couple of overs later to bring about his 46th half-century, the century of the partnership and England’s 200 in the second innings.
South Africa had some joy towards the end of the session. A length-ball by Pretorius bounced off a crack from the Wynberg end. It took an outside edge off Root (61) that was held by Faf du Plessis at first slip. Dom Bess, in as a night-watchman bagged a pair as he could not keep a short ball from Nortje out and gloved it to Quinton de Kock
Post Lunch Session
Sibley and Joe Denly played with caution post-lunch. Going with an ultra-defensive approach, the pair played a large chunk of the session with under 2 runs per over. Vernon Philander set the tempo by delivering four maiden overs of the five he bowled in the session.
After the first few overs, Maharaj moved to around the wicket to Denly, who took his time to get the sweep shot going. Surviving the spells from Philander and Rabada, the pair brought up their fifty partnership.
Denly's 143-ball vigil was ended by Anrich Nortje. Mistiming a hook, Denly (31) was taken by Pretorius at the fine leg boundary who grabbed on to a tough low catch.
As expected, Nortje peppered Joe Root with bouncers straight away. England scored 57 runs in 28 overs in the session with just six boundaries. Root provided some intent at the end by reverse sweeping Maharaj for four.
England’s grasp on the match is getting stronger. Call it the pressure of a deficit or just the failure of the bowlers to find a rhythm but the South African new ball bowlers lacked intensity.
Blunting the new ball, Zak Crawley and Sibley denied the much needed early success to the Proteas. Crawley, playing predominantly off the front foot started with two boundaries in the first over of Rabada
Philander, starting from the preferred Wynberg end, was down in pace and averaged around 125 kmph mark. His four-over spell hardly tested the batsmen.
Continuing to play off the front foot, Crawley was hit twice by Rabada. On what was likely to be the last over of Rabada’s spell, Crawley (25) went for a drive and edged to Quinton de Kock. This provided the only moment of joy for South Africa this morning. Bowling one more over after getting the wicket, Rabada was hit by two boundaries again – one each from Sibley and Joe Denly.
Sibley and Denly carried the team through to lunch without further loss. England added 52 runs in the session and are now ahead by 98 runs.
The South African bowlers were particularly guilty of straying down the leg quite often. To the batsmen who score heavily on the leg side, resulting in seven boundaries on the batsmen’s stronger side.
Earlier in the day, bowling from the end that has not helped the seamers much did not affect James Anderson. Continuing from where he left-off, the 37-year cleaned up the tail to earn his 28th five-wicket haul.
Rabada was caught behind on the first ball of the day. Philander and Nortje tried to offer some resistance. However, on the fifth over of the morning, Nortje edged one for Ben Stokes to complete his fifth catch of the innings. South Africa were left trailing by 46 runs in the first innings.