MANCHESTER - Jonny Bairstow batted South Africa out of the fourth Test with a thunderous innings of 99, that has given England firm control of the match.
South Africa endured a torrid 20 minutes before lunch losing the wicket of Dean Elgar, trapped lbw for nought by James Anderson off the third ball of the innings.
South Africa went to lunch on 12/1 with Hashim Amla on 6 and Heino Kuhn on 4, trailing England by 350 runs.
Bairstow turned on the turbos after England, who’d resumed on 260/6, lost three wickets for 31 runs in five overs.
He was gifted easy runs too by South African captain Faf du Plessis who set his field back on the boundary when Bairstow was on strike despite the second new ball being less than 20 overs old.
To Bairstow’s credit he took what was on offer for him at one stage going down on one knee to sweep Duane Olivier to the fine leg fence.
The next ball he slogged down the ground for six, and two balls later, with Olivier trying to bowl wide of off-stump, Bairstow stepped across and hammered the ball to the point boundary.
A testimony to Bairstow’s mastery in farming the strike is that no.11 batsman Anderson, spent 45 minutes at the crease and only faced 15 deliveries. The final wicket pair added 50 runs in nine overs with Anderson scoring 4 not out, with England all out for 362.
Bairstow seemed set for his hundred when he got on strike against Keshav Maharaj, but having blocked the first three balls of the over, he then attempted to sweep, and was trapped lbw for 99. He made a hopeful appeal to the TV official, Joel Wilson, but he upheld Kumar Dharmasena’s on-field call of out.
Bairstow’s was the 17th innings of 99 by an English player in Test cricket, but a lot of finger’s will be pointed at Du Plessis for setting his field back when he did.
There was still plenty of assistance in the pitch and with a new-ish ball, which beat the outside edge of Bairstow’s on a number of occasions, it sent the wrong message to both England but also his own team.
Never mind the psychological tiredness, South Africa also seem to be carrying numerous physical injuries too; beside Vernon Philander and Chris Morris who are missing this match, it was noticeable on Saturday morning how Maharaj and Heino Kuhn were limping when they had to chase the ball.