JON CARDINELLI reflects on the players and moments that shaped day three of the fourth Test at Centurion.
BATSMAN OF THE DAY
Moeen Ali played positively from the outset and was particularly effective against the South African spinners. The left-handed batsmen scored 61 to ensure England reduced the deficit to 133 runs.
BOWLER OF THE DAY
Kagiso Rabada was on fire in the period before lunch. The 20-year-old bowled an immaculate length, and managed to get the likes of Joe Root, James Taylor, and Jonny Bairstow out caught behind. He claimed another big wicket in the second session when he got Ben Stokes to nick off. Rabada finished the innings with figures of 7-112, his best to date in Test cricket.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Joe Root took the fight to Dane Piedt early in the first session. The shot that brought up England’s 200 was the best of the day. Piedt landed the ball on what looked to be a good length, but Root used his feet to get to the pitch and punch it through cover for four.
DELIVERY OF THE DAY
Kagiso Radaba bowled several beauties over the course of the day, but none better than the delivery that dismissed Ben Stokes. In the 82nd over, AB de Villiers took the second new ball and tossed it to the rookie fast bowler. Rabada slanted the delivery across Stokes and found the edge, which flew into the hands of Hashim Amla at first slip.
England did well to survive the first hour of play without the loss of a wicket. Thereafter, they lost four wickets for 34 runs.
NEW BALL MYSTERY
Much was made about Hashim Amla’s decision to delay the taking of the second new ball in the first Test at Kingsmead. On this occasion, Amla’s successor, AB de Villiers, was similarly reluctant. It proved a strange decision, as Ben Stokes smashed Dane Piedt for 11 runs in the 81st over. Immediately, De Villiers changed his mind and called for the new nut. Two balls later, Kagiso Rabada dismissed Stokes.
HAMSTRUNG BY SELECTIONS
There were concerns when it was confirmed that South Africa would field three seamers in this match. Veteran commentator and fast bowling great Michael Holding lamented the management of Proteas pacemen Morné Morkel and Kagiso Rabada over the course of England’s first innings. Kyle Abbott sustained a hamstring injury late in the day, and there are concerns that he may not feature again in this contest. It would be a big loss for the Proteas in the fourth innings. They would need to rely on their spinners far more.