South Africa: 88 for 6 (Quinton de Kock 32*, Mark Wood 3-21) trail England: 400 all out (Joe Root 59, Ollie Pope 56, Anrich Nortje 5-110) by 188 runs.
At the end of the first day of play, the discussion should have centred around the sumptuous cricket the England and South Africa displayed on the day.
However, talk instead centred around the player of the series elect, Ben Stokes.
The all-rounder was caught on camera delivering a foul-mouthed tirade directed at a fan who had heckled him as he walked back to the change room after being dismissed for two runs.
Stokes has since apologised for losing his cool, saying that his emotions got the better of him. That didn’t stop the International Cricket Council (ICC) fining him 15% of his match fee and handing him one demerit point for infringing the ICC’s code of conduct.
On the field, after a first day that swung both ways, South Africa would’ve been eyeing an early wicket to build on the momentum they had gathered on day one.
In that quest, they faced England captain Joe Root and Ollie Pope. The pair would’ve been hoping to bat the whole day, or as long as possible to ensure that England post a competitive score in their first innings.
And they obliged, putting on a 109-run partnership for the fifth wicket, as both batsmen brought up half-centuries.
Eventually, after frustrating the Proteas bowlers, the partnership was broken in the 70th over. Anrich Nortje, the nightwatchman of St George’s fame, made the breakthrough. The pacer’s ball deflected off of Pope’s bat and uprooted the stumps. Pope was out for 56 off 78 balls.
Nortje was just warming up. And after a drinks break he seemed to have drank something that brought his superpowers to the fore, a la Bruce Banner amped on gamma rays.
This time he dismissed Root, who had been dropped just two overs earlier by Du Plessis off the speedster’s bowling. The England skipper went fishing and edged it to the gloves of Quinton de Kock behind the wicket.
Before the crowd could even catch their breath, Nortje was sending Sam Curran back to the pavilion for a duck.
He didn’t get his hat-trick but he would’ve been happy as he had his team nicely poised at 269 for seven.
Prior to the beginning of this Test match, Du Plessis had said he hopes his team can handle the pressure moments in the game a little bit better.
As such, he will be concerned that having reduced England to that 269 for seven, their last three wickets added 131 runs. This including an 82-run partnership for the ninth wicket between Stuart Broad (43) and Mark Wood (35).
Eventually, the Proteas got that final wicket, Dane Paterson having Broad caught by Pieter Malan at deep square leg. By then England had set a formidable total of 400 for the Proteas.
South Africa’s bid to chase that total got off to a slow start as they trudged along to 29 runs after 19 overs.
Then everything crumbled.
Malan, who had opened the batting with Elgar, was caught by Buttler off the bowling of Wood.
The wickets of Rassie van der Dussen, for a duck, and Elgar (26) left South Africa reeling at 43 for three.
In came captain Du Plessis to try and steer the ship to safer waters. But he, just as bereft of confidence as the rest of South Africa’s top order batsmen, was soon back in the dressing room – out LBW for just three runs from 29 balls.
That brought the prodigal son, Temba Bavuma to the crease, which he was sharing with De Kock. South Africans would’ve hoped that the pair bat for the couple of hours that were left in the day, to give the Proteas some stability going into day three.
Those hopes were shattered as Bavuma edged a sharp delivery by Wood to Stokes at second slip. South Africa in trouble at 74 for five.
In came Nortje as nightwatchman once more, but this time there were no survival heroics as Wood was once again the protagonist to capture his third wicket of the day. Nortje out for six.
That was the last play of the day as the umpires called stumps with South Africa staring down the barrel of yet another follow-on come day three. DM
"We are surrounded by story." ~ Alice McDermott