England's Dom Sibley plays a defensive shot during day 3 of the first Test against South Africa at Supersport Park in Centurion on Saturday. Photo: Catherine Kotze/BackpagePix


UMPIRES – Chris Gaffney and Paul Reiffel have not had their best games here. Both have had decisions overturned on review - some not even close - and then there was that debacle with Jofra Archer’s ‘beamers,’ on Friday night. 

The English quick is really lucky to have picked up a five-fer on Saturday for he should not have been bowling after Reiffel failed to stick to his original decision to no ball him for the second ‘beamer’ to Nortje.  

NIGHTWATCHMAN – There were groans when Nortje walked into bat with 20 minutes still to play on Friday evening. Employing a nightwatchman is a touchy subject. Why should bowlers, who’ve worked so hard need to go in to ‘protect’ batsmen who’s job it is to bat? No one asks a batsmen to bowl the last over of a long day do they? 

By the time Nortje walked off after being dismissed shortly before lunch on Saturday spectators in the main pavilion were standing and applauding his efforts. It was gutsy, at times skilful and yes there was a lot of luck involved, but it was invaluable. 40 runs, 127 minutes,89 balls, 6x4. A special performance.

QUOTE – “I just tried to focus on every over. For me the challenge was just trying to stay in every over, trying be there the next over, then the next and the next until lunch. (Getting 50) did cross my mind somewhere but I just told myself to try and focus on this over.” - Nortje on shutting up the voices telling him a maiden Test 50 was in reach. 

INJURIES AND ILLNESS – England have not been helped by their travel schedule in the last month. From New Zealand, to chilly England, to a very warm South Africa, in a few short weeks. Some kind of bug would catch them, but this flu-bug has been a horror movie. Three players were hit in the first week, one of whom, Jack Leach still hasn’t recovered. On Saturday Jos Buttler couldn’t keep and Joe Root, had to leave the field and was put in ‘quarantine.’ Root would not have batted Saturday had another wicket fallen, and he will be grateful for a night’s sleep as England chase history on Sunday

CONDITIONS – Overcast all day, a ‘bowler’s day’ but as it turned out not. The pitch was at its flattest although England didn’t help their cause with far too many bouncers, and not nearly enough balls were going to hit the stumps. The odd ball still seamed and as De Kock and Philander can attest, from being struck on the hand and inner thigh respectively while batting - there is some inconsistent bounce that will make batting harder the longer the game goes on. Maharaj got a couple to turn also.

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