CENTURION // First-innings hero Kagiso Rabada struck two early blows as South Africa pushed for victory on the fourth day of the fourth and final Test against England at SuperSport on Monday.
England, set an unlikely target of 382 on a deteriorating pitch, were 52 for three at the close after South Africa declared their second innings on 248 for five.
Rabada, who took seven for 112 in the first innings, dismissed Alex Hales and Nick Compton, while new ball partner Morne Morkel claimed the wicket of England captain Alastair Cook for the second time in the match.
If South Africa are able to take the last seven wickets today it would be a consolation victory, with England holding a winning 2-0 lead in the series.
“It’s going to be a tough task, especially on that pitch,” England’s James Anderson said. “We have seen plenty of deterioration. The batsmen we have left are positive, so we’ll give it a good go.”
Hales made only one run before he received a virtually unplayable ball from Rabada which shot through low and trapped the batsman in front of his stumps.
It finished a disappointing series for Cook’s latest opening partner. Hales made 136 runs in eight innings at an average of 17.00. Cook did not last much longer before pushing back a return catch to Morne Morkel after scoring five.
Compton was next to go, for six, edging a drive against Rabada to be caught behind by Quinton de Kock. Compton sought a review which showed a clear edge.
It could have been worse for England.
With South Africa using two spinners in fading light, Root, on 10, survived a stumping chance off Dane Piedt, with De Kock fumbling a ball which turned sharply.
Kyle Abbott, who had not been expected to bowl because of a hamstring injury, took the field and bowled one over.
Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma batted South Africa into a virtually unbeatable position with a fifth wicket stand of 117.
Amla followed up his first innings of 109 with a resolute 96, while Bavuma struck an unbeaten 78.
Amla was on 96 at tea and his approach in the first over after the interval suggested he was keen to get to his century quickly with a declaration imminent.
Stuart Broad set seven fielders on the off side.
Amla tried to play across the line to leg, then flashed at a wide ball. He chased another wide delivery and was caught behind after a 199-ball innings during which he hit 11 fours.
Bavuma revealed, however, that he and Amla had been told they had a maximum of eight overs in which to score as many runs as they could. “Hashim took one for the team,” he said.
With heavy clouds rolling in, South Africa batted on until rain stopped play half an hour after tea. Bavuma hit Anderson for six over wide long-on, batting for 154 balls in total and hitting nine fours and a six.
“It was a tough pitch to bat on,” Bavuma said.
“There was variable bounce and the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat. You had to show some bravery. We’ll be trying to exploit that variable bounce as much as possible.”
Anderson was England’s best bowler, taking three for 47. The veteran fast bowler, who had taken only four wickets at a cost of 63.50 runs each in six previous innings, struck twice in three balls early in the day, reducing South Africa to 49 for three.
Anderson had Stephen Cook caught behind for 25, then trapped South African captain AB de Villiers leg before wicket with a superb in-swinger. It was De Villiers’s second duck of the match and his third in successive innings.
“We got early breakthroughs which gave us a sniff,” Anderson said.
“We thought we could bowl them out maybe and have a reasonable total to chase. But they played well and it wasn’t to be.”
JP Duminy (29) provided solid support to Amla in a partnership of 57 before the Amla-Bavuma stand took the match beyond England’s reach.
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