South African cricket fans around the world will be doing a rain dance for the area around The Oval in London to be soaked for the next two days, writes GARY LEMKE.
The weatherman has forecast two relatively dry days however, despite the rain which saw just 123 runs scored, South Africa getting 49 of them before Temba Bavuma was last man out. England reached 74 for 1 by the time the umpires called play off for the day.
With time lost in the game, and the weather holding, there will be around 100 overs allocated for each of the remaining two days, which should be enough for England to take a 2-1 lead in the four-Test series.
They already have a lead of 252, with nine wickets remaining. Presumably Joe Root will ask his batsmen to add another 200 to their total before declaring, and setting South Africa 450 to chase for an unlikely victory. After Friday’s play, the bookies had made the Proteas 16-1 outsiders to win. After day three those odds had stretched to 20-1, with England at 2-7 for the win.
Depending on weather conditions, England may be expected to add to their score on Sunday at around three runs to the over, which means that they will declare shortly after tea, around 450 runs in the lead and then have four sessions to try and get 10 wickets.
It’s another uphill struggle for the Proteas, who took crumbs of comfort from their first innings total when Bavuma and Morne Morkel went past the follow-on target – not that Root would have enforced it, given the friendlier batting conditions.
Days three and four were always going to be the best for batting on this Oval pitch, so Sunday’s sessions will be the key ones. It says plenty for the way the Proteas are on the back foot in this Test where the biggest cause for celebration has been getting past the follow-on total. In doing so, Bavuma went past 1 000 Test runs and much was made about the fact he got there quicker than Jacques Kallis, showing again that statistics can relate any storyline that one wants to narrate.
Bavuma got to his milestone in his 35th innings and he’s become a fixture at No 6 in the order, a compact player with admirable composure and an uncomplicated game. He’s not easy to bowl to and has a good technique. Hopefully, for whatever reason his existence in the side has been questioned, it will now be put to bed, although one would expect to see him add to his single Test century.
England’s No 6 in the order, by comparison, is Ben Stokes. His first innings hundred – his fifth – saw him go past 2 000 runs in his 62nd innings, so Bavuma has 27 more innings to get another 1 000 if he is to be compared to Stokes, let alone Kallis.
Vernon Philander physically got out of his hospital bed to contribute to South Africa’s cause, but Faf du Plessis will be hoping that the brilliant seam bowler is getting stronger by the minute, after being laid low for three days.
He got through six overs with the new ball on Saturday, going for 30 runs in the process, but was bowling at around 120km/h, which shows how under-strength he was. Still, he was unlucky not to have removed Keaton Jennings twice in the space of two balls, first on 2 and then 6. The first was an inside edge that went between player and leg stump for four, and for the next ball Dean Elgar got his feet all wrong in the slips, a sharp chance burst through his hands and went to the fence.
If South Africa are going to get back into this match somehow, chances such as these will need to stick, as well as a bit of luck going their way.
Providing there is no rain, one will expect to see Heino Kuhn and Elgar with their pads on sometime after tea on Sunday, as the fight for survival begins, going into day five. Anyone still in favour of four-day Tests?
Photo: Philip Brown/Getty Images