Another series slipping away for SA

06 August 2017 - 19:47 By Telford Vice
South Africa's Morne Morkel reacts.
South Africa's Morne Morkel reacts.

Manchester — South Africa bowled manfully and caught mournfully‚ and England made hay even though the sun didn’t shine for much of the third day of the fourth test at Old Trafford on Sunday.

England were 224/8 in their second innings when rain forced the close 17.4 overs early. That’s a lead of 360‚ or one run fewer than South Africa’s highest total in each of their other half-dozen innings in the series.

And‚ on current batting form‚ it’s difficult to see them getting near a target that will probably swell significantly when play resumes‚ what with Moeen Ali well set on 67 and Stuart Broad yet to score.

Monday’s forecast is for plenty of cloud cover but not‚ at this stage‚ for rain. That’s not what South Africa’s batsmen will want to hear.

They will have to win this match to claim a share of the series. Anything else and England will beat South Africa in a home series for the first time since 1998‚ which would end at three the visitors’ consecutive rubbers without defeat here.

Morne Morkel‚ Duanne Olivier and Keshav Maharaj took the fight to England’s batsmen and were rewarded with six wickets between them. Which made the fact that South Africa dropped five catches all the more frustrating.

England might have been dismissed‚ and for how many fewer than they have scored?

Dean Elgar spilled two at slip‚ Bavuma grassed one at deep backward point‚ Kuhn put another down at midwicket and Faf du Plessis still another at short third man.

None of the squandered chances were simple‚ and all except one of Elgar’s errors — a tumbling effort that would have removed Moeen for 15 off Maharaj — would have been outrageous catches.

But they weren’t held. Instead they are part of the lengthening tale of woe that is South Africa’s too-long summer in England‚ where every series they have touched has turned to lost. So far‚ that is‚ but this one is already unwinnable.

A flatness has crept into South Africa’s play that has not served them well and could be difficult to shake‚ and is the last thing they need with India on their way with Australia to follow before next summer is out.

 South Africa resumed their first innings on 220/9 and were dismissed for 226 with the 23rd delivery of the day‚ which Olivier skied to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow to earn Stuart Broad’s third wicket.

That left James Anderson high and dry on 4/38 — one scalp shy of what would have been his first five-wicket haul in tests at his home ground‚ where an end was named after him before the match.

Dropped catches and all‚ South Africa whittled their way through England’s second innings without too many problems.

Joe Root and Ben Stokes shared 57 for the fifth wicket‚ and Moeen and Toby Roland-Jones put on 58 for the eighth.

But it was only once Moeen hit his straps that England were in the driving seat.

He scored his unbeaten 67 off 59 balls‚ hammering 50 of them in fours and sixes — reaching his half-century with a straight six off Maharaj that was caught by Bairstow on the players’ balcony.

It was the brightest moment of a day made gloomy on all sorts of levels. - TimesLIVE