JON CARDINELLI reflects on the players and moments that shaped day four of the fourth Test at Centurion.
BATSMAN OF THE DAY
Hashim Amla was determination personified. Amla occupied the crease for 199 balls and five-and-a-half hours. During that period, he was hit on the body several times. The Proteas’ No 3 batsmen maintained his composure for much of his innings, and played some beautiful strokes through the off side. Unfortunately, he played a rash shot in the over after tea to lose his wicket and fall four runs short of a richly deserved century.
BOWLER OF THE DAY
James Anderson was fired up in the first session of the day, sending the ball down at 140 km/h and getting it to swing substantially. England’s premier bowler took two wickets in the space of three balls. The dismissal of Stephen Cook for 25 and AB de Villiers for 0 kept the visitors in the contest.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Hashim Amla stroked Chris Woakes through the covers several times. On one occasion, Woakes hit a decent length, but was dispatched all the same. Amla stood up straight, extended his arms, and smashed it to the cover boundary.
DELIVERY OF THE DAY
James Anderson got a delivery to swing back viciously and rap AB de Villiers on the pads. The Proteas skipper reviewed the umpire’s decision, but the review was in vain.
CATCH OF THE DAY
Morné Morkel’s catch to end Alastair Cook’s innings. The ball was hit firmly down the ground, but Morkel managed to get a hand to it and complete the dismissal.
ANSWER AT THE TOP
Stiaan van Zyl struggled in his capacity as an opening batsman, scoring 192 runs in eight Tests. His replacement, Stephen Cook, has already scored 140 runs in one match.
AB’S ROTTEN RECORD
AB de Villiers was dismissed for 0 in the second innings. The failure marked De Villiers’s third consecutive duck. He became just the second South African skipper to bag a Test pair (Louis Tancred was the first, scoring two zeroes against England in 1912).
BEN THE BRUISER
The South African batsmen are unlikely to forget about Ben Stokes’s bruising performance on day four. Stokes troubled the hosts with several well-directed short deliveries. He even managed to strike Hashim Amla on the hand and Temba Bavuma on the elbow. He also dismissed JP Duminy at a crucial point in the contest. The fierce competitor must be the front-runner for Player of the Series.
In other circumstances, Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma would be lauded for scoring 102 runs at a rate of 3.40 an over in a single session. In the context of this match, however, the Proteas paced their innings poorly. They should have thrown caution to the wind in that period after lunch, and declared before tea. If they don’t claim seven more England wickets on day five, they will regret their decisions on day four.
Before the start of play, Kyle Abbott told broadcasters that his hamstring was fine and that he hoped to feature in the fourth innings. When South Africa eventually declared, Abbott joined his team-mates on the park, and bowled one over. It is hoped that he will be fit enough to contribute on day five. If not, AB de Villiers will need to make do with two seam bowling options. Off-spinner Dane Piedt and part-time slow bowlers JP Duminy and Dean Elgar will be under pressure to take wickets.