The dismissals of Dom Sibley and Joe Root, among others, were just reward for the South African bowlers sticking to their plans on a day when they were made to toil.
The St George’s Park pitch proved to be a batsman’s paradise on Thursday but it took a 76 run partnership between the in-form Ben Stokes and impressive Ollie Pope to help put England slightly ahead.
While many commented on the lack of assistance provided to the bowlers, the Proteas went about their business with strict discipline and were aided by the excellent work of Keshav Maharaj.
England’s start – they were 61-0 at lunch – left South African trailing early but then the plan came together Kagiso Rabada got Zak Crawley caught by Dean Elgar down the leg side and fellow opener Dom Sibley gone after flicking an Anrich Nortje delivery to leg gully which Rassie van der Dussen juggled at first before holding on.
Both wickets were the culmination of the pre-game plan.
‘We spoke long and hard about Sibley after Cape Town because he did play those leg-side shots in the air a lot, so it was a conscious plan we had for him,’ said Proteas bowling coach Charl Langeveldt.
‘In Cape Town he worked us out, he walked into the bowlers line and made life difficult for us, but today worked for us.’
Langeveldt also revealed how the plan to get rid of Root was by bowling straight.
‘I suggested he go full to Joe Root and try to get him lbw or bowled and he did so, fair play to him, he celebrated,’ Langeveldt said.
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