LONDON – South Africa will have to play out 40 overs in the final session this evening and 98 on Monday to save the third Test after England captain Joe Root declared his team’s second innings closed on 313/8 – a lead of 491 runs.
The Proteas will not chase those runs, and it will take a supreme show of skill and temperament to bat for four sessions on this pitch.
There are no obvious demons in terms of inconsistent bounce, nor is there as much spin as at Lord’s.
But there will still be sufficient cloud cover in the final session that England’s fast bowlers will reckon on finding movement off the pitch – which has been there throughout the match – to build pressure.
It certainly won’t help South Africa’s that opener Dean Elgar has a bruised right middle finger, which he picked up when he tried to stop a searing drive off his own bowling by Jonny Bairstow.
Elgar had to have his finger taped, and there will be some discomfort when he has to bat later.
England initially dawdled for 20 minutes after lunch. Ironically, the increase in the scoring rate came as a result of the loss of the two batsmen who’d resumed after the interval.
South Africa’s left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj removed both Tom Westley (59) and Root (50) within four balls of each other.
That brought Ben Stokes to the wicket and after he’d got set, he punished the South African bowlers, particularly the lacklustre Chris Morris.
The latter has had a poor match, but did give his spirits a boost by trapping Dawid Malan lbw – a decision made by TV official Kumar Dharmasena.
Stokes and an effervescent Bairstow added 49 runs for the sixth wicket in eight overs, with Bairstow delighting the crowd with some smart and skilful strokeplay that included one delightful glance over the keeper’s head off the bowling of Rabada.
Morris cleaned up Stokes with a yorker, but Bairstow continued to flay a now listless Proteas attack, who were merely looking forward to putting their feet up and having the batsmen go to work.
Morris picked up 2/70 in 11 overs, an illustration of how poorly he bowled, and there may be a few question marks about his spot in the starting team ahead of the fourth Test.
Bairstow was the last man out, caught on the long-on boundary off Maharaj for 63 that came off 58 balls and included one six and six fours.
Maharaj was the most successful of South Africa’s bowlers, claiming 3/50.
The highest fourth-innings total in a Test here came in 1981 when England set India 438 in the fourth innings, and the Indians got within nine of that target with eight wickets down.