Temba Bavuma ensured that the Proteas avoided the follow-on before England got to 20-0 by lunch, building up a lead of 198 runs.
The Proteas will be content with the way they recovered in the morning session on day three, as they managed to add 49 runs to their overnight total to avoid the follow-on.
When they were on 61-7 they weren’t expected to be able to track down the 92 more runs required to avoid it, but thanks to a crucial 53-run stand between Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada, as well as another 47 runs between Bavuma and Morne Morkel, they passed it fairly comfortably in the end.
The good news for the visitors was that Vernon Philander was able to bat. He only scored nine, but he bowled two overs before rain brought about an early lunch. He did need to rush off the field as soon as his two overs were done, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be well enough to carry on with what has been diagnosed as a viral infection.
Bavuma started the day on 34, with the only chance he offered coming when he was on 40, six runs short of avoiding the follow-on. Ben Stokes put down a sharp one-handed catch at gully, which the South Africans will see as an important lifeline.
Bavuma went on to bring up his eighth Test half-century, and within that knock he notched up 1 000 Test runs, achieving the feat quicker than Jacques Kallis did.
Morkel departed for 17 after James Anderson found his edge, before Toby Roland-Jones was brought on to get his fifth wicket, and the debutant did exactly that, as Bavuma edged one behind to Jonny Bairstow for Roland-Jones t0 finish with figures of 5-57.
England were handed a lifeline of their own in their second innings, as Keaton Jennings, desperate for runs, edged one which went right in the middle of Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis. It was Elgar’s to take, but he was put off by the proximity of Du Plessis. Jennings was on six at the time.
Cook and Jennings reached 20 off five overs before the rain fell, with England building up a lead of 198 runs.
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