Keegan Petersen and Rassie van der Dussen sucked the heat out of England’s victory charge on a wicketless third afternoon at Emirates Old Trafford.
Three cheap breakthroughs in the morning session put the hosts on course for an innings victory in the second LV= Test, with the Proteas faltering under the weight of a 264-run first-innings deficit.
But after coming together with just 54 on the board, Petersen and Van der Dussen dropped anchor to take the score to 141 for three at tea and reduce the lead to 123.
After toiling away for the best part of two hours England finally did enough to part the duo, but Van der Dussen’s thin outside edge off Ben Stokes went undetected, with no hint of an appeal.
That allowed Van der Dussen to reach the break on 41 not out, a battling effort given a finger injury that required heavy strapping before he took the crease.
Petersen was even more cautious, soaking up 152 deliveries for his unbeaten 42, with a solitary boundary off a Joe Root full toss. He had one early brush with DRS, successfully overturning an incorrect caught behind decision against James Anderson.
South Africa started the day on 23 without loss but wobbled in the first hour as England’s seamers went on the attack. Stokes had started with an unexpected ploy, opening up with Root’s occasional off-spin, but it was a brief experiment.
Anderson was a more predictable starter from the end that carries his name and he got England up and running in emphatic fashion, upending the off stump of visiting captain Dean Elgar for 11.
A hard-fought wicketless session.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) August 27, 2022
Elgar is renowned as his side’s most durable batter but his hopes of a long stay ended with a classic Anderson set-up, nipping one away off the pitch and following with one that tailed back in and squeezed past the left-hander’s defences.
Ollie Robinson settled into a searching spell of his own and was rewarded with the scalp of Sarel Erwee, caught behind pushing at one that lifted as it left him.
Buoyed by scoreboard pressure, England were in total control and it did not take Stuart Broad long to join the hunt. He thought he had Aiden Markram for a duck but his brilliant delivery, and the outside edge that followed, were rendered moot by a marginal no-ball – called as the batter was well on his way to the pavilion.
The reprieve was a short one for Markram, who continues to struggle for Test runs, as he aimed an ambitious cover drive at Broad but picked out Zak Crawley at second slip. A rapid end to the match appeared to be in the offing but Petersen and Van der Dussen successfully slowed things down and relied on solid, watchful defence against a ball that quickly became unresponsive.
They added just 53 runs in the afternoon session, but repeatedly rebuffed England as they cycled through their bowling options. Spinner Jack Leach sent down 19 overs for 19 runs, keeping the scoring rate stagnant but causing precious little danger.