Temba Bavuma and Chris Morris have steadied the ship after South Africa lost three wickets in quick succession after lunch.
South Africa went to tea on 525-6, still 104 runs behind England’s 629-6.
England made the third new ball, which they took immediately after lunch, work for them as South Africa lost three wickets in four overs for just 10 runs.
It stunned a somewhat shell-shocked Newlands crowd into silence. England had their tails up as hopes of them getting a positive result out of this Test temporarily flared up. But Temba Bavuma (52) had other ideas.
The newcomer to the Test side stepped up brilliantly, his second Test fifty coming off just 52 deliveries as he entertained onlookers with a host of lofty cover drives. He was solid defensively as well and looked at ease, not least of all because of what went before him.
What went before him was a brilliant 171-run partnership between Hashim Amla (201) and Faf du Plessis (86), who failed to make the big score he wanted to. Nevertheless, his first fifty in 12 innings was exactly what South Africa needed and he stayed in long enough with Amla to frustrate the English bowlers.
Amla got the smallest of inside edges to a beautiful Stuart Broad delivery which hit his leg stump. Amla’s innings lasted 707 minutes, almost 12 hours, and he became only the third batsmen in Test history to have two innings last longer than 700 minutes, the other being his 311 not out against England in 2012. Alastair Cook and Brian Lara are the other two batsmen on the list.
Du Plessis nicked one off to Ben Stokes at slip off James Anderson the next over as South Africa lost the plot temporarily, before Bavuma took over.
Quinton de Kock, in his first innings back since being dropped for Dane Vilas last year, disappointed with a risky hook shot which went straight to Anderson at short square leg.
The question marks around De Kock’s temperament for Test cricket are not new and will be revisited, but it’s something he has to work on as he grows into a world-class Test wicketkeeper.
Morris also deserves credit for the way he stuck around with Bavuma, riding his luck a few times but ultimately his unbeaten 24 is invaluable in the context of the match and precisely the reason the selectors picked him ahead of Hardus Viljoen for this game.
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