Persistent rain throughout the second half of the day at The Oval has left England on 74-1, leading the Proteas by 252 runs.
We’re in for a very intriguing two days now. If the weather holds firm at The Oval, which it is supposed to, England will likely spend half the day batting before sending the Proteas in. From there, it will be a battle of survival.
Considering the position the South Africans were in going into day three, they will be content with the way things went on Saturday. They were on 126-8 thanks to a resilient 53-run stand between Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada in the evening session on day two, and Bavuma continued in the morning session on day three in composed fashion.
Bavuma struck up his eighth Test half-century, and in that knock he brought up 1000 Test runs, achieving the feat quicker than Jacques Kallis. The 47-run stand with Morne Morkel allowed them to avoid the follow-on, and while Morkel (17) and Bavuma (52) fell in quick succession, they’d managed to get to 175, trailing by 178 runs.
It was a superb effort by 29-year-old England debutant Toby Roland-Jones, who removed the top four before seeing off Bavuma for the final wicket, finishing with figures of 5-57. The South African pace attack were going to have to pull off something similar to keep themselves in the contest, and through Morkel, they thought they had.
Morkel continues to have Alastair Cook’s number. For a record-extending 11th time in his career, Cook walked back to the pavilion courtesy of Morkel, and it was a ripper to see him off. Morkel bowled an excellent spell of full deliveries to the openers, and he got one to jag off the surface ever so slightly to remove Cook’s off-stump for seven.
It could have been better if South Africa had held on to their catches. A couple of overs before, Vernon Philander found the edge of Keaton Jennings, and the ball flew to Dean Elgar’s right, who was put off by the proximity of Faf du Plessis. Jennings survived on six, and he looked in good touch from there.
It was tough on Philander, who went on and off the field throughout, visibly agitated from the viral infection that kept him in hospital the previous day. He still managed to send down six overs, and he was unlucky to conceded 30 runs from them, as he bowled well given the circumstances.
Jennings overturned an lbw decision, but from there it was plain sailing for him and Tom Westley. Westley drove down the ground nicely while Jennings put away anything short and wide, as the pair built up a 44-run stand. The rain started to fall heavily an hour before tea with England on 74-1, and it persisted for the remainder of the day.
It means England will go into day four with a lead of 252 runs, and the South Africans will be pleased that it’s just that, as it suddenly brings them into the game.
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