It was a day of two halves in Johannesburg. England dominated the first half, and it seemed this Test would be a mere continuation of what has been happening for the most of the series. Then, South Africa hit back, and it seemed there was life in the Test yet.
The start was delayed, however, with rains across South Africa ensuring almost 36 overs were missed out on the day. England ended the day at 192/4, and both teams will feel honours are even at this stage. England still have Ollie Pope, who scored a century in Port Elizabeth, and Joe Root in the middle, though.
The first session tomorrow, and particularly the first hour, will be key. South Africa haven’t had the greatest time with the bat this series, so it’s imperative their bowlers – devoid of the suspended Kagiso Rabada – manage to capitalise on any early pressure from the England batsmen and nip away a few early wickets.
They will be delighted with the way Beuran Hendricks shown on his first day as a Test cricketer. He broke England’s 107-run opening partnership by snaring Dom Sibley, and that triggered a collapse of 4 for 40 from England. Hendricks ended the day with a reasonable 1/43, and while filling the boots of Rabada is some challenge, he has made a good fist of it.
South Africa will also be mildly pleased that Jofra Archer was deemed unfit for the Test. That is one less headache for a beleaguered batting unit to contend with, although first, the bowlers have to ensure the batsmen don’t have too much to do.
Early wickets tomorrow will see to that.
Vernon Philander (South Africa): The South Africa ace is playing his last Test, and in one of his last spells, his effectiveness was there for all to see. He was the most economical South African bowler, returning 1/37 in 13 overs, and early tomorrow morning, the movement he can generate might be crucial to undoing England.
Joe Root (England): England need a good first session to keep South Africa off their backs tomorrow, and Root is the perfect batsman to ensure that. His solid style of batting is exactly what England need right now, and he’ll need to guide Pope at the other towards getting through the first session unscathed.
England 192/4 in 54.2 overs (Zack Crawley 66, Dom Sibley 44; Vernon Philander 1/37) vs South Africa
England to bowled out for around 275.