TELFORD VICE at Trent Bridge
SOLID though unspectacular batting by Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis earned South Africa complete control of the second test against England on Sunday.
England were one without loss at stumps in their second innings in search of an unlikely victory target of 474 after South Africa declared their second innings closed on 343/9.
Neither Alastair Cook nor Keaton Jennings scored: England’s only run in four maidens bowled by Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander was a leg bye.
A day that yielded eight wickets stood in contrast to Saturday’s play, when 15 fell.
History is on South Africa’s side as they look to level the series after losing the first test at Lord’s last Sunday.
The highest target achieved to win a test is the 418/7 West Indies made to beat Australia in St John’s in May 2003.
England have never successfully chased 400 to win. Only three times in the 115 tests they have won batting second have they scored 300 or more, most recently almost 16 years ago.
Elgar and Amla took their third-wicket partnership, which was worth 57 at stumps on Saturday, to 135 before Ben Stokes broke through in the fifth over before lunch.
Stokes had set a field for the short ball, and Elgar fell into the trap by attempting an ill-judged hook that looped off the top edge of his bat and was caught at square leg.
It shouldn’t have been the stroke of a man who had, as Elgar had, been at the crease for more than three hours, faced 136 balls and hit 12 fours in his 80.
Amla was removed seven overs before tea, trapped in front for 87 by a delivery from left-arm spinner Liam Dawson that pitched on middle and straightened.
The wicket ended a stand of 62 Amla shared with Du Plessis, who made 63 before Stokes had him leg-before with a delivery that stayed low.
Heartened as England were by their progress, they should have seen the back of Elgar and Amla earlier in the day.
In the sixth over Stuart Broad found the edge of Amla’s bat, Jonny Bairstow took the catch, and Amla should have been on his way for 25.
But England’s appeal was half-hearted and they did not refer the decision for not out.
In Broad’s next over Elgar, on 55, slashed to gully — where James Anderson dropped a difficult chance.
The mood for most of the day was as grey as the clouds above, but Philander brightened it by hitting three fours and two sixes in his 42 in late afternoon sunshine.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali took 4/78.
England were reduced to 0/1 with the first ball of their second innings when umpire Paul Reiffel gave Cook out lbw to Morkel.
Cook referred the decision, and the ball was shown to be going over the top of the stumps.