Hashim Amla top-scored as the Proteas set England a mammoth target of 474 on day three at Trent Bridge. JON CARDINELLI reports.
South Africa came into this Test with a point to prove, following a weak and largely gutless performance at Lord’s. After being asked to bat first in bowler-friendly conditions on day one, the Proteas dug in to post 335. Late on day two and then over the course of day three, South Africa’s key players maintained their focus to build a gargantuan lead of 473.
England looked a tired and rattled side at the close of play. It won’t get any easier for the hosts when they resume their second innings on day four. The ball has swung prodigiously in the first session across the first three days, and kept low at times on day three. The pitch is expected to deteriorate even further in the coming days.
The hosts will need to break a series of records in order to complete a win. No team, bar the New Zealand side of 1973, has scored more than 350 in the fourth innings at Trent Bridge. On that occasion, the Kiwis amassed 440. The overall world record for a winning fourth innings total is 418.
The South African bowlers certainly played their part on day two. On day three, however, it was the likes of Dean Elgar, Amla, and Faf du Plessis who showed incredible patience and determination to blunt the England attack and steer South Africa into a position of strength.
Amla was at the heart of those key partnerships. The veteran batsman and Elgar put on 135 for the second wicket. The first session proved especially challenging for the South Africans as the hosts managed to utilise the seam-friendly conditions to good effect. It was only in the 20-minute period before lunch, however, when England finally enjoyed some success with the wickets of Elgar and Quinton de Kock.
Amla and skipper Faf du Plessis played carefully in the period immediately after the break. It took 135 balls for the partnership to yield 50 runs. And yet, it was the England bowlers and fielders who betrayed feelings of frustration. The batsmen looked to be in complete control.
Neither Amla nor Du Plessis managed to crack on and get a big hundred. Amla was trapped lbw by Liam Dawson in the lead-up to tea, while Du Plessis perished later after missing a Ben Stokes delivery that kept low. While neither man reached the three-figure mark, their contributions may well be remembered as game-shaping.
The declaration came after Vernon Philander’s dismissal late in the day. There was some drama when Alastair Cook was given out lbw off the very first ball.
A review, however, showed that the Morné Morkel delivery was going over the stumps. England survived that testing four-over spell before the close with all 10 second-innings wickets intact.
Because of Amla and Du Plessis, the Proteas will head into day four as favourites to win the game and level the series. Morkel and Philander will be expected to make inroads into the England batting lineup in the first session. The spin of Keshav Maharaj should be a factor as the pitch deteriorates later in the day.
SA 335 (1st innings) – Hashim Amla 78, Quinton de Kock 68, Vernon Philander 54, James Anderson 5-72
England 205 (1st innings) – Joe Root 78, Jonny Bairstow 45, Keshav Maharaj 3-21, Chris Morris 3-38
SA 343-9 declared (2nd innings) – Dean Elgar 80, Hashim Amla 87, Faf du Plessis 63, Moeen Ali 4-78
England 1-0 (2nd innings) – Alastair Cook 0 not out
England need 473 more runs to win
Photo: Philip Brown/Getty Images