England were 29-1 in response to South Africa’s total of 475 at tea on day two at Centurion.
England are well and truly on the back foot. Earlier in the day, they suffered a beating at the hands of Quinton de Kock. The South African batsman raced to his maiden Test century and finished unbeaten on 129.
Then, in a testing nine-over period before tea, Kagiso Rabada made a crucial breakthrough for the hosts. England made a positive start to their first innings, scoring quickly and freely. But the loss of Alex Hales may force a rethink as they look to build a platform in the final session.
The Proteas’ middle- and lower-order batsmen should take a bow. While Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla hit centuries on day one to set up the innings, it was the efforts of the batsmen down the order that propelled the Proteas beyond the 450-mark.
The hosts lost their first five wickets for 273 runs. The likes of Temba Bavuma, De Kock, Kyle Abbott, and Dane Piedt then rallied to add 202 to the final total.
De Kock’s fearless attitude served him well throughout his innings. Another batsmen may have erred on the side of caution after Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada fell inside the first half-hour of play. De Kock, however, took the fight to the England bowlers. He raced to his half century in just 68 balls, and continued to attack after lunch.
De Kock was helped by some poor England fielding over the course of his innings. The visitors missed as many as three chances in the first session, and captain Alastair Cook dropped De Kock after lunch.
De Kock was on 90 at that stage. The incident did nothing to dent his confidence, though, as he proceeded to hit spinner Moeen Ali for two consecutive boundaries. He reached the three-figure mark after facing 104 deliveries, the second fifty coming off 36 balls. You could see what the milestone meant to him as he swung his bat in celebration.
Credit should, of course, go to the men who supported De Kock in the latter stages of the South African innings. Bavuma and De Kock put on 62 runs for the sixth wicket. De Kock and Abbott clubbed together for 50, while De Kock and Piedt combined for 82.
Ben Stokes eventually dismissed Piedt, and accounted for Morné Morkel soon after to finish the innings with 4-86. The star of the day, however, was De Kock, who ended on 129 not out off 128 balls.
While England bowled and fielded poorly, South Africa rode their luck. The hosts are well in control of this match, and are now favourites to score what will be a consolation win. England currently enjoy an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
For ball-by-ball commentary, click below:
SA 1st innings 475 – Quinton de Kock 129 not out, Stephen Cook 115, Hashim Amla 109, Ben Stokes 4-86
England 1st innings 29-1– Alex Hales 15, Alastair Cook 14 not out, Kagiso Rabada 1-18
England trail by 446 runs