MANCHESTER – South Africa’s bowlers gritted their teeth amidst the adversity that resulted from the absence of two injured compadres to keep themselves in touch with England through the second session of the fourth Test here on Friday.
England went to tea on 147/4, with their captain Joe Root on 34 and Ben Stokes 1.
Although England scored at a slightly quicker rate than they did in the morning, the Proteas also bowled better by building pressure through the nagging accuracy of Keshav Maharaj and pace and movement of Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa were forced to make two changes to the team for the fourth Test here on Friday, as Vernon Philander and Chris Morris were left out owing to back injuries.
“Vernon and Chris have been struggling with injuries to their left lower backs this week. They didn’t come through their respective fitness assessments successfully, and will unfortunately not be able to take part in this Test match,” said South Africa’s team manager Mohammed Moosajee.
Duanne Olivier and Theunis de Bruyn were called, both making their second appearances in the series as they were forced into a starting line-up featuring seven front-line batsmen.
Maharaj bowled unchanged throughout the session from the Statham End, doing a perfect holding job for his captain and building the pressure as he bowled 14 overs for 31 runs and five maidens, with the wicket of Alastair Cook deserved reward for a sterling effort.
That wicket came with some crafty bowling from Maharaj and nifty captaincy from Faf du Plessis, who moved mid-on wider when Cook came on strike – for the first time against Maharaj – and invited a drive.
With a lovely looping delivery from Maharaj, Cook duly played the shot, only to edge the ball behind to Quinton de Kock after scoring 46.
That came at the start of an excellent period of pressure cricket from the South Africans, in which no runs were scored for five overs.
In the middle of that little period, Rabada, bowling a fast and aggressive spell from the newly named James Anderson End, found the outside edge of the bat of the patient Tom Westley, with De Kock taking a magnificent catch diving to his right to register his 100th Test dismissal in the process.
Root and Dawid Malan added 52 for the fourth wicket, a restorative partnership but not one in which either of them got away from the Proteas.
Morkel, who’d bowled superbly with the new ball in the morning, returned for a burst before the tea break and induced Malan into a loose drive, which saw the ball fly off the edge of the bat towards Du Plessis at second slip.
England had scored 89 runs in 28 overs through the session, but the loss of those three wickets meant the afternoon belonged to the tourists.