South Africa had started the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy on a high, with a 107-run win in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion. England then roared back to trounce South Africa by 189 runs at Cape Town to level the series. The teams will now meet at Port Elizabeth for the th third Test of the four-match series.
Despite the defeat, however, South Africa may find some solace in the gumption they showed in the fourth innings at Newlands. Asked to bat out almost five sessions, they lost only in the final stages, after facing almost 138 overs. Debutant Pieter Malan showed promise with a 369-ball 84, two others kept out over 100 balls, and three others over 50.
As for the bowling, Vernon Philander, while not at his destructive best, made scoring off him nearly impossible. Kagiso Rabada has been hostile, if slightly erratic, but Anrich Nortje and Dwaine Pretorius have both risen to the challenge. Also important will be Keshav Maharaj, for the Port Elizabeth pitch tends to be dry and conducive to spin.
As for England, they suffered a major blow when James Anderson, after match figures of 7/63 at Newlands, was ruled out of the series. The recovery of Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, on the other hand, may somewhat make up for that. Along with Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, Ben Stokes, and Dom Bess, they form an impressive attack.
Stokes will also play key role with bat, as will Joe Root (if fit) and Jos Buttler. However, much will be expected of Dom Sibley (whose 133 not out may have solved England's top-order woes), Joe Denly, and Ollie Pope. All they now need is Zak Crawley to get some runs.
Head to head
The 151-Test rivalry dates back to 1888-89, when South Africa had hosted England for the former's first ever Tests. England hold a 62-34 lead (32-20 in South Africa). However, England's lead comes down to 13-12 (7-5 in South Africa) in the new millennium. South Africa have also not beaten England at home since 1999-00, though they have won in England in 2008 and 2012.
Pieter Malan (South Africa): Malan's five-hour 84 at Newlands was special: he was debuting; the attack was world-class attack; it was the fourth innings; and South Africa needed to bat almost five sessions. There is no question over his adaptability into the role.
Dom Sibley (England): Sibley's hundred, against a quality attack at their den, might have filled a void at the top, one that England have been facing since Alastair Cook's retirement. He will be expected to retain his form for the rest of the series.
South Africa: Pieter Malan, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada.
England: Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, Dom Bess, Jofra Archer.
South Africa to win and go 2-1 up.