England set SA a mammoth target of 438 for victory to square series

06 January 2020 - 13:46 By Khanyiso Tshwaku At Newlands
Dom Sibley of England celebrates his maiden test century. His ton was the first of this four-match test series.
Dom Sibley of England celebrates his maiden test century. His ton was the first of this four-match test series.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

South Africa face the prospect of a daunting and possibly unlikely record fourth-innings chase after England's blockbusting all-rounder Ben Stokes drove the game forward in a way only he can.

England went to lunch on day four at 375/7 with a lead of 421‚ which means South Africa will have to surpass the West Indies' 418/7 to beat Australia in Antigua in 2003 to win this game.

Dom Sibley‚ who scored his maiden Test ton‚ remained firm on 125* from 299 balls.

Such was England's statement of intent that they drilled 157 runs in 27 overs for the loss of three wickets.

Their run-rate shot up from 2.7 to 3.5 an over in a session of cleverly pace and controlled aggression.

They've scored faster in white ball cricket‚ but it was manic stuff in search of a comfortable declaration driven by Stokes.

It was 75 minutes of calculated mayhem from Stokes that pretty much settled the morning.

Coming first thing in the day after Dom Bess was dismissed off the last ball of day three‚ Stokes got going with firm drives and pushes off Keshav Maharaj (1/147).

It was chanceless stuff from Stokes‚ who in his 47-ball knock punched seven fours and three sixes.

With Faf du Plessis persisting with the old ball‚ Stokes took full toll of it and by the time the new ball was taken in the 85th over‚ Stokes's eye was in.

When Quinton de Kock missed a top-edged Stokes hook off Kagiso Rabada (2/66)‚ the outnumbered South Africans in the crowd were visibly deflated.

Not too long after that‚ Stokes raised a 21st test 50 off just 34 balls and 52 minutes.

Stokes lived and died by the sword when his flat-batted sweep picked out Rassie van der Dussen and deep long off of Maharaj‚ but his job was done.

Having done all the bedding on the third morning and afternoon‚ England chose the right time to cut loose while setting a difficult target.

Sibley was content to stroll to his 100‚ having resumed on his overnight 85.

It took him 47 balls for the 15 critical runs needed for the landmark‚ which he got to with an uncultured sweep of Maharaj.

His 269-ball 100 was the platform of a superbly paced team knock.

Sibley‚ who hit 16 fours on his way to the ton‚ also joined in on the urgency party when he hoisted Maharaj for a massive six over cow corner.

The ball nearly landed in the construction area and eventually settled in the nets that protect the pedestrian walkway.

Jos Buttler's 18-ball 23 wasn't as damaging as Stokes' stay‚ but he drilled a delightful straight-driven six off Rabada.

His dismissal‚ a feathered sweep to De Kock off Anrich Nortje (3/61)‚ was anti-climatic just like Ollie Pope's (three) when he chopped a Rabada delivery onto his stumps.

England declared on 391/8 and set the Proteas a mammoth 437 target to chase as continue their quest for their first win at this ground in 63 years.

What's not in doubt though is that they're in full control of the game.