England on the verge of victory in PE
PORT ELIZABETH – As the Barmy Army belted out their rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a prayer” with the famed lyrics “Woah, we're half way there” drowning out the St George’s Park brass band it was confirmation that there was only one team in this third Test match, and possibly even the series.
That team is, of course, England and at that stage the visitors were indeed halfway there with South Africa five wickets down in their follow-on innings and staring the prospect a massive defeat right in the face. By stumps they had lost another one to leave England needing just four wickets to take a 2-1 series lead to the Johannesburg finale.
It is indeed a pitiful state of affairs for South Africa, especially as the rain had wiped away the majority of the first and second sessions. It is hard not to imagine that the match would have been concluded already were it not for the weather interruptions and that South Africa’s only hope of salvaging a draw on the final day rests with the heavy downpours forecast for Monday.
“Today (Sunday) is not a day we can say we fought hard or hold our heads up high. There might have been a couple of things that added to the lacklustre performance but we can’t be too emotional about it. We need a lot of hard work in the future and that’s what we need to do,” Proteas coach Mark Boucher said.
To England, and their captain Joe Root’s credit, they were cognisant of the pending weather disruptions all the time. It was for this reason they had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on for the first time since 2013 after running through their hosts in the morning session. South Africa lost their four remaining overnight wickets for the addition of just one run to be dismissed for 209. The deficit was exactly 290 runs.
This was partially reduced to 188 by stumps. Only captain, Faf du Plessis, offered prolonged resistance but he too succumbed to the unlikely figure of Root. The England skipper, bowling from the same Duck Pond End where Dom Bess claimed his maiden five-for in the first innings, passionately drove his team to what is likely to be a memorable victory.
With Mark Wood storming in from the Park Drive End and terrifying the Proteas batsmen, particularly a nervous-looking Zubayr Hamza, with his vicious pace and bounce, Root simply picked them off like a hyena feeding off an exposed carcass on the other end.
He closed off with career-best figures of 4/31 – a drastic improvement on his previous 2/9.
Root’s control with the ball and his team exuded confidence. The contrast between him and his counterpart Du Plessis could not be any greater at this stage.
Du Plessis tried valiantly. He defended stoically like we know he can, and was desperate to see out the day at least. However, Du Plessis’s decision to review his dismissal when it was clear as daylight that he had edged the ball on to his pad was the manifestation that the skipper was no longer thinking clearly but rather in desperation and hope.
“I don’t know about the review. I saw it on TV. I haven’t spoken to him at all about what he felt or if he nicked it or whatever,” Boucher said.
“The state of mind … I think it’s easy for me to sit here and say I am happy with his state of mind. For me, his state of mind is going to be a lot better if he gets out there and scores runs. Ultimately we all know he is under pressure, in the media, and from a confidence point of view.”
South Africa are a team devoid of confidence at the moment. And England are relishing every second of it.@ZaahierAdams