Pieter Malan has batted well for the Proteas. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – For 78 minutes, Faf du Plessis kept his cool.

The Proteas captain knew that he was in an almighty battle to help his team save the second Test against England at Newlands on Tuesday.

After nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj lasted less than 15 minutes before he was trapped lbw by James Anderson, Du Plessis joined Pieter Malan for what is turning out to be a ‘blockathon’ – something that the South African captain is quite familiar with.

The world-record target of 438 seemed years away as the Proteas scored just 20 runs in the first hour on the final day, but their fans wouldn’t have minded the slow scoring.

Malan showed all the attributes that earned him selection as he kept out ball after ball from Anderson, Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Dominic Bess as he edged ever closer to a magical century on debut.

But, in uncharacteristic fashion, Du Plessis appeared to lose his concentration when he wafted at a rather wide delivery from Broad that went over the slips for a boundary.

Then the big moment came, less than half-an-hour before lunch, when the SA skipper played a full-blooded sweep at Bess, and found Joe Denly in front of square to be dismissed for 19.

Du Plessis couldn’t believe it, and neither could the English, who celebrated the wicket with great fervour.

This was the opening that they had been searching for, as the pitch was still playing true – with not much assistance for the pacemen or spinner.

Malan, though, was still unbeaten at the interval on 83, while Rassie van der Dussen was on one as the Proteas ended the session on 170/4.

They have two sessions and 63 overs to survive – and 268 more runs for an improbable victory – while England need six more wickets to level the series at 1-1. Who will stand the test of time?

@ashfakmohamed

 

IOL Sport

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