CAPE TOWN: Opener Dominic Sibley struck a career-best unbeaten 85 as England seized control of the second Ttest against South Africa at the close of the third day at Newlands yesterday, grinding down their hosts ahead of a fourth innings victory charge.
The tourists reached 218 for four at stumps, a lead of 264 that already looks substantial on a wearing wicket and with two full days remaining, providing an excellent chance to level the four-match series.
Sibley put on 116 for the third wicket with captain Joe Root (61), before the latter steered Dwaine Pretorius to Faf du Plessis at slip late on.
Nightwatchman Dominic Bess gloved a leg-side delivery from Anrich Nortje (2-36) to end the day.
Sibley will seek to take the game further away from South Africa with Ben Stokes on day four with England’s travelling fans in full voice in Cape Town.
Sibley’s previous best in Tests was 29 and he showed impressive patience and concentration to see off the new ball and then accumulate his runs by waiting for the right opportunities to score.
He took 140 balls to reach his 50 and batted for almost the full day, which allowed Root to score more freely at the other end.
South Africa’s other two wickets in England’s second innings were that of Zak Crawley (25), who edged Kagiso Rabada to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, and Joe Denly (31), caught at long-leg attempting a hook off Nortje.
It was, at times, a war of attrition that the visiting side won with risk-free, smart cricket.
South Africa’s bowling attack were unable to find the movement and pace off the wicket that England enjoyed as they bowled them out for 223 early on the third day.
Seamer James Anderson took five wickets and Ben Stokes an England record five catches as they made short work of wrapping up the South African first innings.
Anderson (5-40) knocked over Rabada (0) with the first ball of the day and completed his England record 28th Test five-wicket haul when Nortje (4) edged to Stokes at slip for the all-rounder to take his fifth catch of the innings.
It is the joint most by any player in Test cricket and the 12th time a fielder had taken five catches in an innings, but a first for England.
“I sat down after yesterday’s play and felt like that is what I have missed, a proper hard day of Test cricket,” Anderson told reporters.
“That is why I still want to play cricket. You put in a proper shift and it makes all the hard work and (injury) frustration worth it.
“I love the challenge that Test cricket brings, putting in the hard yards in the field, having to graft for your wickets, to try different things, the fields and plans when things are not going your way. That is why I want to keep going.”
Anderson added that his side have been surprised by how flat the wicket was yesterday after it had fairly prodigious sideways movement on the first two days.
“The guys that batted said it felt flatter. Strangely, here and Pretoria, when the cloud cover comes over, it is the opposite to England and the pitch flattens out.
“We are hoping for sun (on Monday) for the wicket to deteriorate. We have some hard work tomorrow, hopefully we can bat into the second session and dictate terms on the day.”
South Africa won the first Test in Pretoria by 107 runs.