PE rain comes to the Proteas' rescue
PORT ELIZABETH – The people of the Eastern Cape have been praying for rain. On Saturday, the Proteas joined them and their prayers were at least partially answered with most of the third day of this third Test at St George’s Park washed away.
For the home team it was valuable time taken out of the game as they try to stay not only in this Test, but the entire series as well. England hold all the aces with two days remaining here and are pressing hard to take an unassailable 2-1 series lead to Johannesburg next week.
Only 64 overs were able to be delivered on this rain truncated day, but it was enough for South Africa to dig themselves into an almighty hole that possibly only further downpours their saving grace.
England found a hero in the form of off-spinner Dom Bess. Only 22, but already having endured a roller-coaster career that has seen him play a Lord’s Test one week and then demoted to the Somerset 2nd XI the following week, the youngster is simply enjoying every moment out there in the middle.
He had plenty to get excited about on Saturday as he grabbed his maiden Test five-for to leave South Africa’s innings in tatters. Following-on from dismissing Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza in the previous night’s gloom, Bess accounted for Dean Elgar (35), Faf du Plessis (8) and Rassie van der Dussen (24) in a lengthy spell from the Duck Pond End.
Bess certainly benefited from England’s sheer amount of runs – 499 to be exact - as it allowed his captain Joe Root to keep in the close catchers around the bat for a long period of time. It paid dividends for it accounted for both Elgar and Du Plessis. It was the latter’s that Bess and Root would have been most pleased with though.
The South African captain had come into this Test under immense pressure due to his lack of runs of late. In an attempt to remedy this, Du Plessis came out of the sheds with an attacking mindset. He wanted to dominate the off-spinner from the outset, hoping that he would not only hit himself back into form but also banish the off-spinner out of the attack.
He succeeded with two boundaries when he advanced down the track. Unfortunately for Du Plessis and South Africa, he was not that lucky on the third attempt as a defensive push halfway down the track only to inside-edge the ball to the short-leg fielder.
South Africa were 71/4 and their captain was dismissed cheaply again. There was blood in the water and England’s sharks were circling.
It certainly is a pity that the hosts don’t have any more Anrich Nortje’s in their team though. For the second time in this series Nortje fulfilled his nightwatchman duties with aplomb.
Having frustrated the England bowlers in the first Test at Centurion already, the local man here from Uitenhage once again showed the type of steely determination that the Proteas top-order severely lack at present. Nortje faced 136 balls altogether and more importantly spent over three hours at the crease for his 18 runs.
But to really emphasize his spirit and commitment to his team’s cause was his body language upon his dismissal. Nortje was crestfallen that he edged a Ben Stokes delivery to slip and took an age to age to firstly get up and then make his way back to the pavilion. He was duly afforded generous applause by his home crowd.
Nortje’s never-say-die spirit seemed to filter through the dressingroom for Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander at least gave the St George’s Park brass band something festive to play during the extended final session.
De Kock played with his natural verve and Philander too was enterprising as they offered South Africa some form of hope with an unbroken stand of 54 for the seventh wicket.
Their primary target on Sunday will be to add a further 91 runs for South Africa to at least avoid the follow-on and ensure England will at least need to bat again before the visitors put in a final victory push.@ZaahierAdams