PLAYS OF THE DAY
SHOT: South Africa’s best period of batting hitherto in the series - the partnership between Amla and De Kock - featured many examples of the latter’s outrageous skill. One stroke stood out, and you won’t find it in any training manual - a sort of tennis serve-pull, off Stokes in the 48th over. De Kock with his bat vertical above his head, almost hit over the top of the ball, sending it through midwicket for four.
WORKING OVER: Broad to Kuhn was good, Anderson to Elgar was better; England’s top Test wicket-taker had already got two deliveries to nip away from the left-hander and then teased him with one slightly fuller and wider, drawing Elgar into a false stroke. South Africa’s opener pushed hard at the ball, it flew off the edge, giving Dawson the chance to take a fine diving catch in the gully.
CATCH: Jonny Bairstow’s wicketkeeping has improved beyond measure in the last year and he looks a better than competent gloveman, and not just a good batsman who keeps. Yesterday his part in the dismissal of Du Plessis was another very good example of his technique and agility; efficient movement to his left, before sticking out his left glove, snatching a difficult chance.
HERO: De Kock’s looseness was the start of a mini-collapse that saw South Africa lose three wickets for the addition of just 41 runs. It means Vernon Philander, in at no.7 in the re-jigged batting order,had to play with care and great discipline and see off the second new ball. He played with aplomb. South Africa had stuttered after tea, but in combination with Chris Morris, Philander showed great resilience, while hitting some exquisite shots, to register a seventh Test half-century - his third against England.
CONDITIONS: Heavy cloud, lots of grass, a pitch with lots of moisture where Anderson and Broad have shared 87 wickets... SA’s openers would have been forgiven for thinking their captain didn’t like them when he chose to bat. But the pace off the surface was slow and as the sun shone on it later, it actually looked much easier for batting. South Africa ultimately didn’t take sufficient advantage of batting first.