PRETORIA – Asked if anyone in the South African dressing room had, at the end of the third day, mentioned the series loss against Sri Lanka earlier this year, Anrich Nortje gave a firm, “no.”
But those demons will be in the South African players’ heads, they’re not robots. In the opposition ranks there’s Ben Stokes, whose fourth innings heroics against Australia at Headingley in August, competed with Kusal Perera’s in Durban in February for the best Test knock of 2019.
South Africa has lost its last five Tests, and forgetting how to win is a problem too. Should the Proteas not get a breakthrough in the first session on Sunday, those demons will come and sit right on their shoulders.
Saturday had been a good day for the Proteas and Nortje. They built a lead of 376, a target that Vernon PHilander said the night before should put them in the safe zone. And to be fair, they still hold a number of cards – Keshav Maharaj’s left-arm spin took one wicket and created a couple of other chances, while the odd ball was still misbehaving off a length at the West Lane End. There’s also a second new ball available after lunch.
But, those demons.