Claiming Stokes’ wicket top priority for SA on second day of third Test against England

Proteas appeal for LBW against Ben Stokes of England on day 1 of the 3rd test during the International Test Series 2019/20 between South Africa and England at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth on 16 January 2020.
Proteas appeal for LBW against Ben Stokes of England on day 1 of the 3rd test during the International Test Series 2019/20 between South Africa and England at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth on 16 January 2020.
Image: © Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

Claiming Ben Stokes’ wicket will be top of the list of priorities for South Africa as they look to make an impact on day two of the third Test against England at St George’s Park on Friday.

It was a slow day of Test cricket for most of the opening day as England battled their way to 224 for the loss of four wickets.

That effort‚ at a run-rate of 2.5 per over‚ came on a surface where runs obviously proved a scarce commodity.

The predicted Easterly breeze‚ the one that locals will tell you brings the wickets‚ failed to pitch on Thursday and that made it hard for both batsman and bowlers to garner success.

Stokes (38) and Ollie Pope (39) survived the new ball to end as the not out batsmen overnight.

Faf du Plessis’ South Africans will know that nipping out Stokes as early as possible will be of key importance lest they run the risk of him taking head coach Mark Boucher’s “wounded buffalo” by the horns.

That lack of wicket-taking opportunities during the opening session required some innovation and Plessis came up with a plan.

The first two wickets fell to an unconventional field placing. Short backward square-leg‚ or leg gully if you will‚ is not a position every captain looks to employ.

But Du Plessis identified an opportunity and his quicks Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje targeted back-of-length in the direction of the thigh pad and it worked on both occasions.

First‚ and just after lunch‚ Dom Sibley turned a delivery from Rabada to Dean Elgar‚ who snaffled a good catch. Sibley made 36 and contributed to a 70-run stand for the first wicket with Zak Crawley.

Next man down Crawley was a near carbon copy dismissal to Sibley’s but this time it was off Nortje with Rassie van der Dussen‚ in almost the exact same position‚ taking a blinding catch diving low to his right.

Crawley was workmanlike for his 44 that came off 137 deliveries and included nine fours.

England took the tea break on 117 for two off 58 overs with Joe Denly and Joe Root looking to continue the patience game.

But it was case of them both getting in and then getting out.

Denly’s (25)‚ was a strange dismissal in that only wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock appealed for leg before decision off Keshav Maharaj.

The appeal was turned down but De Kock convinced his skipper to review. Television revealed the ball had kissed the pad before hitting the middle of Denly’s bat and the decision was overturned.

Rabada‚ who took 11 wickets against the Aussies at St George’s Park two years ago‚ struck another blow for the Proteas‚ knocking over England captain Joe Root for 27.

Root was desperately unlucky‚ as the delivery kept a touch low and he was trapped on the crease as the ball crashed into his wicket.

There were raised eyebrows when Du Plessis‚ after losing his sixth toss in a row‚ opened the bowling with debutant Dane Paterson ahead of the likes of Rabada or Nortje.

With Vernon Philander operating from the other end‚ a lack of pace allowed the English opening pair to settle in.

With not much happening in terms of wickets‚ Maharaj was brought into the attack before lunch.

The leftarm spinner ended up bowling the lion-share of the overs. He sent down 30 consecutive overs until the new ball was taken late afternoon.

He ended the day with figures of one for 55 in 32 overs and is likely to bowl considerably more on Friday.

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