Despite a decent fight from the Proteas on day five at Newlands, England held on to the draw to stay 1-0 up going into the third Test at the Wanderers.
In an extraordinary contest that saw both sides post 600-plus for the first time in Test history, the Proteas gave themselves a real chance of pulling off the most unlikeliest of victories, as England were six wickets down shortly after lunch. Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali held their nerve at the crease, however, and 15 minutes into the final session, the players went off for bad light, spelling the end of the match.
The Proteas started to believe that the unthinkable might very well happen on day five, and that sentiment alone gives them plenty of confidence and momentum going through to Gauteng.
After England posted 629-6, the hosts were in disarray and a 2-0 lead to England was on the cards. Ben Stokes produced the innings of a lifetime, striking 258 in a knock that included 11 sixes and a sixth-wicket record 399 runs with Jonny Bairstow, who scored a brilliant 150 not out himself.
The Proteas innings saw the return of one of South Africa’s finest batsman, and the introduction of one of their brightest talents. Hashim Amla, who hadn’t scored a fifty in 11 innings previously, became just the second South African, after Graeme Smith, to score 200 or more for the 4th time. Temba Bavuma added further inspiration with an emotional maiden Test century.
Contributions elsewhere from AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Chris Morris would have done the Proteas camp’s confidence levels a world of good. Day three and day four belonged to the South Africa, and these two days might just have galvanised them into a fightback for the final two Tests.
The declaration on 627-7 in the evening session left spectators wondering whether a result was still a possibility, and three wickets in the first hour of the morning session on day five prompted hints of belief. A couple more wickets after lunch put England on 116-6 and the visitors were suddenly clinging on for dear life, but bad light, rain, and Bairstow and Moeen Ali got in the way, and eventually, it was too little, too late.
It was an atmosphere that saw 85 052 cram into the iconic stadium throughout the five days and saw Hashim’s army out-sing the Barmy Army, and it was a match that saw plenty of batting masterclasses, albeit on a flat pitch. For all the excitement and records that tumbled, a draw would have to suffice.
For the scorecard, click here