JOHANNESBURG – By all accounts, Easter Sunday was a slow day at The Bullring.
The run-rate was solid but unspectacular, and the crowd was cheerful, if a little annoyed by the lack of urgency on the field of play.
But for those in the know, that is Test cricket. It ebbs and flows.
Much like the amber nectar that flowed on Salacious Saturday, things were a lot more circumspect on the ebbing nature of Slow Sunday.
There was one, incredible highlight, as Dean Elgar confirmed all the Superman suspicions with a brilliant catch to bring up a half-century of snaffles in Test cricket.
That closed the Australian response on 221, a full 267 runs behind.
“When you don’t have your best players in the side, it’s about picking up the slack,” skipper Tim Paine explained.
Paine struck a stoic 62, before being last man out to Elgar’s exuberance.
“We weren’t happy with (day two), and really disappointed with the mode of dismissals, so we had to show some fight. We have to dust ourselves off and do it again tomorrow,” Paine added.
The guts shown by the latest Aussie captain – with nine fingers and a tender thumb – convinced South Africa to steer clear of the follow-on enforcement, and go about batting again.
The haste to take strike again forced Elgar to truncate his celebrations, as he had to hotfoot it back to the team sheds and get the pads on.
As is Superman’s wont, he was still out there at day’s end, his resolute defence weathering an Australian resurgence with the ball.
The Jozi crowd, having witnessed the hurly-burly of every other Test venue, wanted more action, but the Proteas battened down the hatches, with skipper Faf du Plessis spending much-needed time at the crease.
“It’s been a long series, and we wanted to give the bowlers a bit of a rest,” Keshav Maharaj explained of the decision to bat again. “We also saw with India that it gets harder to bat in the fourth innings.”
That was a fair point, and South Africa know that they need only stave off defeat instead of snatching a win to clinch the series.
With Morné Morkel straining, batting again was sensible.
Morkel loped off at tea, along with physio Craig Govender and Dale Steyn, to Govender’s rooms in the bowels of the stadium.
All things being right, he will go one more time in Proteas white on Monday.
With the cricket crawling along, the crowd entertained themselves with drinking songs and games, and the odd paper plane from the upper seats, which kamikaze-ed its way on to the outfield.
They will come again on day four, where they will expect a bit more action and, possibly, a victorious end to a summer full of drama.