England make perfect start before rain dampens victory charge

Vithushan Ehantharajah

As perfect a start as you can have as a side needing to make inroads in a match where time is to be taken away from you.

England bowled out South Africa for 209 in a 20-minute window of utter chaos for the hosts. With considerable rain scheduled for the final two days – an early lunch was taken because of it - an overnight position of 208 for six was chewed up and spat out by Stuart Broad and Sam Curran in 4.4 overs.

The best of the tourists’s work came in a smaller window of 3.5 overs, from first to last first innings dismissal, in which the final four wickets were taken for the concession of just one run.

Six deliveries into the day, Broad sent Vernon Philander’s off stump for a walk, nipping one in off the seam to breach a defence that had been resolute for 60 of his 61 deliveries. A similar fate befell Quintion de Kock who faced just five from Sam Curran in the next over before his middle stump was put on its back.

But the cartwheeling timber act was not done there. Keshav Maharaj inexplicably gave Broad a second wicket of the innings with a under-edge that decimated leg stump.

At this point, the scored had not moved on, and the 291 deficit the Proteas took into day four remained. But the four wickets they had in the bank were whittled down to one. A tuck for one by Kagiso Rabada gave the hosts their first run from the 21st ball of the morning.

But it was Rabada who was the final man to go, inexplicably bunting to Mark Wood to gift Broad another and figures of three for 30. A previously robust tail lopped off inside 28 balls of play.

Naturally, with weather around, 290 in arrears and the pitch the most delivish it has been, South Africa were asked to follow-on.

By 10:34am, the players were back out there: Broad and Sam Curran back with the new ball, Dean Elgar and Pieter Malan looking to make amends for the first innings mistakes.

While they were able to make it to 6.5 overs without loss, cutting the deficit to 275 and avoiding the occasional delivery that left their edges hanging, it was the rain that ensured they had safe passage into the second session.