It was slow and steady but the most important factor to South Africa’s batting performance on day three of the second Test against England at Newlands here on Monday was that they lost a solitary wicket.
The only joy that the touring bowlers would feel on the day was to see the back of AB de Villiers as he holed out to mid-wicket off the bowling of Steven Finn for 88. It should have been a lot sooner had the visitors held a few catches that went their way but they didn’t and the Proteas batsmen made the most of the extra lives.
The real hero on the day was Hashim Amla, dropped twice when on 76 and 120, with the captain ending unbeaten on 157 to help his side to 353/3 at stumps and had made sure that the deficit was down to just 276. There’s still plenty of work to be done but the right signs are there that the confidence is returning.
There was also a half-century for Faf du Plessis as he ended the day unbeaten on 51 to put a dry spell behind him. This was his first half-ton since this same fixture against the West Indies here last year.
“As senior players we like to score and contribute as much as we can and to put in big performances for the team. You don’t want to be three of four senior players in the team that aren’t contributing,” Du Plessis said at the close of play.
“We need to lead from the front and I’m very glad that Hashim – who has put in a lot of work in the nets – and for him to get a big score like he did today with AB was a huge step in the right direction,” du Plessis added.
But he’s also well aware that there’s still a big task ahead with two days of play remaining and with England still in the better position of the two sides – even if their bowlers spent an entire day on the field.
It got so dire for the visitors that they enlisted Alex Hales, with only three First Class wickets at an average of 57, to turn his arm over much to the amusement of fast bowler Steven Finn who said in the post-play press conference that he hadn’t bowled with Hales since their days with the Hertfordshire Under-12s.
“We’re definitely not a team that will sit here and say that everything’s changed and we’re top of the wave again. We know there’s a lot of hard work still to be done. Consistency in batting is what we’ve achieved as a Test team for a long time and the only way we are going to quieten the critics is to be consistent.
“If we can use the situation of the game to get better as a Test team that will just help us going forward in this Test series.”
“Hopefully we can be in a position tomorrow where guys like Temba (Bavuma) and Quinny (Quinton de Kock) can come in and play their natural game,” he said.