Vernon Philander has been discharged from hospital and is expected to bat on day three, with the Proteas on 126-8.
A resilient stand of 53 between Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma has essentially rewarded the Proteas with an extra batsman.
When Rabada strode to the crease, the Proteas were on 61-7 and in very real danger of being asked to bat again in the evening session on day two. They were effectively eight wickets down, with the news that Philander was still in hospital with a viral infection.
Rabada managed to hang around for 13.2 vital overs, with Bavuma’s cool head guiding him through it. Rabada struck 30 before he was removed by an excellent delivery from Stuart Broad, leaving Morne Morkel to absorb the pressure for the final remaining overs.
It means the Proteas live to fight another day, with Morkel on two, Bavuma on 34, and South Africa 27 runs away from avoiding the follow-on. It also means that Philander is expected to bat. He still has abdominal pain, but he got a conditional discharge, which means that if the situation worsens he’ll be heading straight back to the hospital. But as things stand, he will bat and look to keep his side in this match.
England, of course, will have other ideas as they look to get the final two wickets quickly. Their 353, spearheaded by Ben Stokes’s 112, turned out to be a very competitive total, after debutant Toby Roland-Jones removed the Proteas’ top four in a blistering eight-over spell which saw the visitors collapse to 51-6.
It remains to be seen whether England will ask the Proteas to bat again, should the option be available. Either way, Faf du Plessis’ charges are going to need the fighting spirit that was seen from Bavuma and Rabada to give themselves a chance of staying in this contest at The Oval.