It began with the South African tail being swept away by James Anderson to give England a first innings lead of 46. Then, led by Dominic Sibley’s unbeaten 85 and a fluent 61 from Joe Root, England closed the day on 218/4 to swell their advantage to 264 runs.
‘It was a tough day of cricket,’ Boucher said. ‘Our backs are up against it.’
Boucher was a renowned fighter during his playing days and though he did not shy away from the dire situation his side faces, he chose to focus on the scrap ahead.
‘If we come out tomorrow with the new ball and we use it well, we believe we can pick up quick wickets,” Boucher said. ‘Chasing anything around 330 would be great. Then if one or two batters get stuck in, we’ve see how difficult it can be to get wickets when the ball gets older. We need our batters to get big scores to give us a chance.’
South Africa’s batters, especially the top order, have been short of runs as a collective and Boucher confessed his disappointment with their performance in the first innings.
‘It was disappointing, but we need to learn from it and grow as a Test batting unit. We fought back hard [from 40/3] and it was just about who would crack first.’
It was a difficult day for South Africa’s spinner Keshav Maharaj who bowled 27 overs without taking a wicket and conceded just under three an over.
Boucher described Maharaj as a ‘work in progress’ and was disheartened by his display.
‘Unfortunately he didn’t land enough balls in the right areas for long enough,’ Boucher said. ‘Maybe there is a lack of confidence in the lack of wickets.’
A possible explanation for Maharaj’s drop from the first innings was the way the English batters sought to attack him more. Boucher said that this could be a potential strategy against England’s spinner Dom Bess. Either way, South Africa will have too climb a mountain the they get their chance to bat again.
‘There are times when teams need their characters to come out,’ Boucher said. ‘We have characters in that dressing room. If we can bowl them out for a total worth chasing then we will do that. But good teams also fight for draws.’
The ever changing surface will determine the strategy. England have had the better of batting conditions with a crack providing trouble for South Africa but not for the tourists today. All results are still possible, but England have given themselves a strong chance of levelling the series.