After England’s morning blitz when Ben Stokes hammered 72 from 47 balls and Dom Sibley carried his bat for 133 runs, South Africa were set 438 to win.
That is the famous figure that the Proteas reached to beat Australia in 2006 in one of the most historic ODIs in cricket history.
Mark Boucher, now South Africa’s coach, hit the winning runs 14 years ago. Also present that day was batting coach Jacques Kallis, who said he is drawing inspiration from the imposing target.
‘I’ve seen some strange and crazy things happen in this game,’ Kallis said after the day’s play. ‘All three results are still possible. It will be a tough ask for us to chase it down. We’ll just have to bat normally. Our plan will be to face as many balls as possible and let’s have a look at tea.’
Debutant opener Pieter Malan led the resistance with a gutsy 63 not out from 193 balls. He showed great patience and resolve to steer South Africa to the final day on 126-2 still needing 312 for a world-record run chase.
‘The wicket has flattened out,’ was Kallis’ encouraging assessment of the conditions. ‘It’s become a good wicket. There’s help for the spinners but there is no reason why we can’t bat the day out. If we bat really well we can get close. Things will need to go our way and someone will have to bat really well. But it is still very achievable.’
Apart from the ‘438 game’, South Africans in the dressing room have memories of epic chases from the past. Faf du Plessis established himself on the world stage as a man for the hopeless cause in Australia in 2012 and Kallis has expressed confidence that his batting unit can do it again.
‘As long as we make England fight for our wickets, who knows what will happen.’
South Africa will need luck, something opener Dean Elgar felt he did not have when his review for an edge behind was rejected. Though the snickometer revealed a noise, the Proteas lefty was convinced he didn’t touch it.
Malan will resume on Tuesday morning facing a monumental task. But with Du Plessis and a solid lower order to follow, anything could happen in this strange and crazy game.