LONDON – A battered and bruised Dean Elgar scored a courageous century, but South Africa are teetering on the brink of defeat after England’s Toby Roland-Jones picked up two wickets in two balls midway through the morning session on the final day.
The home side added a third wicket in the final over before lunch on Monday when Chris Morris was beautifully caught by Ben Stokes, who flung himself to his left after Moeen Ali had found the outside edge of Morris’ bat. He’d scored 24.
At lunch, the Proteas were 205/7, with Elgar unbeaten on 113 – his eighth Test century.
Elgar has displayed a ton of courage to bat through two sessions, copping blows on both hands, his chest, inside thigh and hip, while a throw from the boundary shortly after play started this morning hit him on the back.
Somehow, though, he has dismissed the pain from his mind – despite the odd show of discomfort when he vigorously shaking his hand – and even as Ben Stokes tried to bounce him this morning, he unleashed two stunning pull shots that saw the ball rocket to the boundary.
Elgar and Temba Bavuma had resumed with South Africa’s total on 117/4, with their team’s hopes of survival resting very much on their shoulders.
They played reasonably comfortably until Roland-Jones, who’d claimed five wickets in the first innings, was brought on to bowl from the Pavilion End.
Fifty-three minutes into the session, Roland-Jones claimed the wicket of Bavuma after insisting that his skipper Joe Root send the lbw appeal that had been turned down by umpire Aleem Dar for review.
Dar’s doubt’s were understandable for while Bavuma had hit the ball, he’d been struck on the pad first.
Root and wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow had their doubts, but Roland-Jones insisted the ball had hit Bavuma’s pad, which the replays confirmed, with all the necessary boxes also ticked in terms of where the ball pitched, where it hit the batsman and that it would go on to hit the stumps.
Bavuma’s innings of 32 had lasted 143 minutes in which he faced 97 balls, hitting two fours.
Having spent a big chunk of the morning waiting for that breakthrough, England didn’t have to wait long for the next one, with Roland-Jones deceiving Vernon Philander who, much like his captain Faf du Plessis, shouldered arms to a ball angling into him and was trapped lbw first ball.
Morris only just survived the hat-trick delivery, edging the ball in the direction of the slips, where it bounced just short of the cordon.
Elgar soon afterwards lifted Moeen Ali over mid-off to bring up his hundred, a splendid effort in which he displayed loads of character and bravery.
Although it’s a hundred that is probably in a losing cause, he was entirely justified in his celebrations, such was the quality of his innings.
Sure there was one chance on Sunday when he had nine, and he may have gotten a small scratch on the ball against Stuart Broad’s bowling on Monday morning for which the English didn’t appeal.
But such has been his determination that the landmark should be recognised as one of Elgar’s best Test innings.
He’s been at the crease for just under five hours, faced 189 balls and hit 18 fours. What South Africa wouldn’t give for one of his teammates to show similar fortitude.