The Proteas moved to 60-2 at the close of play on day two of the third Test against England at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Opener Pieter Malan was the opening casualty of South Africa’s first innings, falling for 18 after sharing a brisk 50-run partnership with the left-handed Dean Elgar. The pair capitalised on the tourists’ decision to open the bowling with left-arm seamer Sam Curran rather than fast bowler Mark Wood.
The introduction of spinner Dom Bess, in conditions conducive to slow bowling, accounted for Malan’s removal. The steely right-hander lobbed a straightforward return catch to Bess. The young Zubayr Hamza, too, departed to Bess shortly before the close of play.
Rain ensured an early end to Friday’s proceedings. Elgar will resume alongside nightwatchman Anrich Nortje on Saturday to address a 439-run deficit, if inclement weather doesn’t interfere again.
England had amassed 499-9 declared on the back of centuries from all-rounder Ben Stokes and batsman Ollie Pope. Rain delayed the start of proceedings by 40 minutes, before the visitors resumed on 224-4.
The ton marked the ninth of Stokes’ Test career – and third against South Africa. He also welcomed 4,000 runs in the longest format of the international game. He was eventually dismissed by debutant Dane Paterson, who relished a maiden Test wicket.
Pope continued, successfully negotiating and navigating the so-called nervous 90s to graduate to a maiden Test century. His square drives were exquisite – and a confident whip wide of mid-on heralded the arrival of three figures. He later took the attack to fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, orchestrating some T20I-esque shot selection.
The South African seamers were collectively ineffective on flat, slow pitch. Spinner Keshav Maharaj extracted reasonable turn, capping the ‘soft’ dismissal of wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler and ending an aggressive cameo from all-rounder Sam Curran. Maharaj bowled 58 of the innings’ 152 overs – and was ultimately rewarded with a five-wicket haul. He copped plenty of expense at the hand of tail-ender Wood, though. Wood hit 42 from 23 deliveries before giving Maharaj a fifth wicket.
Earlier, South Africa were jolted by Rabada’s suspension. He may still bowl in this match, but has been banned from the fourth and final Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg later this month. Rabada’s suspension came after Thursday’s overzealous celebration of England captain Joe Root’s dismissal.
The Proteas have won 13 and lost 12 Tests at St George’s Park. They’ve also shared five draws. The last Test at the Port Elizabeth venue was in February 2019, when Sri Lanka beat South Africa inside three days.
This four-Test series is locked one-all. The Proteas won the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion inside four days. England triumphed late on the fifth day in the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town. The Wanderers in Johannesburg will host the fourth and final Test later this month.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson.
England: Zak Crawley, Dominic Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood.