Dom Bess bowls England into a strong position but chances go begging as South Africa resist

Nick Hoult
The Telegraph
Dom Bess took five wickets to put England into a promising position in the third Test against South Africa - Getty Images Europe
Dom Bess took five wickets to put England into a promising position in the third Test against South Africa - Getty Images Europe

Dominic Bess became the latest player of the new generation to grab his chance in this match when he became the youngest England spinner to take a five wicket haul for 52 years.

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Bess has claimed five of the six wickets to fall but with the weather forecast worsening for the final two days of the match, South Africa remain hopeful of saving this game. The fact they have much chance at all is down to England missing four catches at slip, and two half chances at short leg. 

They are 92 short of the follow on target of 300 with Quinton de Kock 63 not out after a wonderfully well paced innings but also the outrageous fortune of being dropped three times at slip by Ben Stokes, owner of the safest pair of hands in England. 

De Kock built on the resistance shown by nightwatchman Anrich Nortje who ate up 136 balls over three and a quarter hours, which could turn out to be a crucial stop on England’s progress. At 208-6 South Africa remain alive in this Test.

The new ball is only three deliveries old but the rain reduces England’s chances in two ways. Firstly it takes time out of the game and secondly, it dampens the outfield making reverse swing for Mark Wood and Stokes harder to generate.

Root has only once before enforced the follow on as England captain but it remains the most likely route to a 2-1 series lead otherwise the good work by Bess and Ollie Pope could all end up being washed away.

Looking to the immediate future, Bess has assured himself a place in the Test side for the next tour to Sri Lanka and set up an interesting battle over who will be England’s no 1 spinner next summer. 

Moeen Ali has fallen out of love with Test cricket and is still unsure whether he wants to play for England in this format again. Jack Leach has battled ill health all winter which is a concern going to Sri Lanka in March. Bess has timed his run perfectly. 

His five for 51 made him the third youngest English spinner to take a five wicket haul in Test cricket and the youngest ever to do so overseas. Those are impressive accolades for a player who flew to South Africa as a standby bowler, picked on the basis of reports from a spin bowling camp in early December. 

Bess’s performance was the reward for six months hard work and for walking a long road since being dropped to Somerset’s second team and going on loan to Yorkshire last summer.

In August Somerset met with Andy Flower and Mo Bobat, the ECB’s performance director, and mapped out his winter. Bess was sent on a Lions spin camp to India in December where he was coached by Richard Dawson, the Gloucestershire coach and former England off-spinner, and tutored in the art of spin bowling by Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath.

England recruited Herath to work with England’s young spinners because as a bowler he relied on accuracy, subtleties of flight and varying his pace for his wickets rather than mystery deliveries making him able to relate to a bowlers like Bess. Herath talked about the know-how of taking wickets: building pressure and out-thinking batsmen. Bess has a smart cricket brain and clearly listened.

Dawson provided technical and pastoral support, lifting Bess’s confidence and belief. Bess’s seam position was tweaked, the coaches worked on how he delivers the ball out of the hand and angles at the crease. It was all aimed at bowling in the sub-continent and the low, slow Port Elizabeth pitch has similarities to those in Asia.

<span>Dom Bess took his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests on day three</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Dom Bess took his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests on day three Credit: Getty Images

In the Cape Town Test, Bess supplied control rather than chased wickets with magic balls showing a much better temperament than when he first played for England. His action was visibly stronger too. Here he has taken his chance on a more responsive pitch against South African batsmen with a long track record of troubles against spin. 

His confidence buoyed by two overnight wickets, Bess had Dean Elgar caught off bat by Pope taking a smart catch low down proving the benefit of having a close catcher who keeps wicket.

Faf Du Plessis walked out averaging 72 in Port Elizabeth but these are different times for a captain under pressure. He tried hitting his way back into form, slotting Bess down the ground for two fours. It did not last. Bess moved over the wicket, changing his line and bowled a little wider. Du Plessis went hard at a ball that turned and clipped the inside edge where Pope grabbed another catch. 

Root dropped Nortje at slip on three making Bess wait for his fifth wicket but Rassie van der Dussen copied his captain by taking on the spin with a flurry of boundaries before departing. He chopped on a ball that bounced and turned, making Bess the youngest spinner to take five wickets for England since Pat Pocock in 1968. 

A three-hour rain delay took the impetus out of England and the pitch lost a bit of its bite for Bess.  Nortje showed real courage as he faced down a Bodyline barrage from Wood before Root belatedly turned to Stokes to winkle the nightwatchman out.

Even Stokes has bad days though. He dropped De Kock on 30 off Root, when he failed to get down quick enough to a low chance. He got a palm to a chance over his head when on 56 De Kock drove at a ball from Bess that bounced more than he was expecting. Finally, in the gloomy evening light Stokes fumbled a catch to his left off Denly becoming the first England fielder to drop three catches in a day since Alastair Cook in 2008.

4:03PM

STUMPS: SA 208/6 (De Kock 63* Philander 27*) - SA trail ENG by 291 runs

Good things and bad things for both sides today. England are in a great position in the match, taking four wickets today, but South Africa dug in to at least suggest they might be able to make 300 or a bit more. They need another 92 runs to avoid the follow on, though. Perhaps the biggest question will be the weather. We'll have Scyld Berry's verdict on the day's play with you very shortly. 

4:01PM

OVER 82: SA 208/6 (De Kock 63* Philander 27*) 

The final over the day will be bowled by Dom Bess, who has bowled England into a very promising position here. Looking back at that catch, Stokes moved to his left anticipating a squarer cut shot and that put him in a compromised position, meaning he couldn't quite grasp the catch. England take the second new ball with three balls remaining, hoping it might skid on or turn a bit more. It doesn't, really, and South Africa survive with six wickets down. 

3:58PM

OVER 81: SA 207/6 (De Kock 63* Philander 26*) 

Oh, is that another chance put down by Stokes!? Yes, it is! Denly gets one to bounce and turn off a length, De Kock tries to cut it from the top of his stumps but can only guide it into the hands of Stokes at slip who grasses his third catch off this very same batsman. It was low but, again, should probably have been taken...

<span>Ben Stokes drops three catches</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Ben Stokes drops three catches Credit: AP

3:55PM

OVER 80: SA 207/6 (De Kock 63* Philander 26*) 

Dom Bess's 12th maiden over of the innings and that's 80 overs bowled. England, of course, won't take the new ball with their quicks but will give the ball to Joe Denly for some leg spin. Two overs remaining in the day. 

3:52PM

OVER 79: SA 207/6 (De Kock 63* Philander 26*) 

I mean, I say that the bowling spin isn't all that beneficial but spin has taken five of the six wickets in this innings. Joe Root bowls his 11th over at the expense of two runs. There isn't much danger in the pitch at the moment, though, other than Root getting one to grip every now and then. 

3:49PM

OVER 78: SA 205/6 (De Kock 62* Philander 25*) 

I am not sure bowling spin like this is all that beneficial to England. England will persist, though. A single off the Bess over. The partnership is 51 in 15.2 overs. Decent. 

<span>Joe Root bowls</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Joe Root bowls Credit: AP

3:46PM

OVER 77: SA 204/6 (De Kock 61* Philander 25*) 

Three runs off Joe Root's latest. It's getting gloomier by the minute but it's not dangerous with the spinners on. SA sticking in there well since the resumption after the rain delay. 

3:43PM

OVER 76: SA 201/6 (De Kock 58* Philander 24*) 

No wickets for Bess in this session but he's still on 5-49 so should be delighted with his day's work, taking two wickets in the first session. Four overs until the new ball but England either won't take it or they will go off for bad light. I wonder which it'll be. May as well carry on with spin. Give Denly an over. 

3:39PM

OVER 75: SA 200/6 (De Kock 59* Philander 24*) 

A maiden from Joe Root. Just the one wicket taken in this final session, which is so far 130 minutes long. England still in prime position but it's been a bit of a slog for them. 

3:38PM

De Kock's innings both pretty and pretty useful

3:37PM

OVER 74: SA 200/6 (De Kock 58* Philander 24*) 

Philander gets a single off the final ball of Bess's over, a nurdle behind square on the leg side and that brings up South Africa's 200. Meanwhile, I can only agree with Freddie Wilde about the band at the ground. I'm not even there and they have brightened up watching every day so far. 

3:34PM

OVER 73: SA 199/6 (De Kock 58* Philander 23*) 

With the light getting worse, Joe Root has brought himself back onto bowl so it'll be Root and Bess until the close. Unless Denly gets involved. It's still occasionally gripping off the pitch for Root but he isn't quite able to take the outside edge of De Kock. 

Until now! That was a strange one. De Kock tries to cut a slower and wider one from Root, but he can only edge it. It loops up in the air fairly slowly to Ben Stokes at first slip, who can't get up from his haunches quick enough and can only parry it behind him. That's a five or six out of ten catch for Stokes. That's twice De Kock has been dropped. And twice it's been Stokes that's dropped him.

3:31PM

OVER 72: SA 197/6 (De Kock 56* Philander 23*) 

Bess gets an over at Philander. The bowler is a useful lower order batsman. Eight Test 50s and a highest score of 74 show that. Bess causes him some discomfort with the final ball, an in between length which he prods forward at. He's played some flash strokes so far in his innings, 23 off 29 so far. 

<span>Vernon Philander drives</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Vernon Philander drives Credit: AP

3:28PM

OVER 71: SA 197/6 (De Kock 56* Philander 23*) 

De Kock has played an aggressive innings without being overly attacking. He has put the bad balls away and there have been a fair few of them in the last hour or so. Broad gives him one to drive, floaty and full outside the off stump. Pumped straight back down the ground for his ninth four of the innings. 

3:22PM

OVER 70: SA 193/6 (De Kock 52* Philander 23*) 

Dom Bess exerts a bit of control with a maiden. Not sure how much more play we'll get today, it's pretty gloomy out there, the floodlights are on full beam and the umpires are looking at their light meters. Just 10 overs until the new ball but I don't think we will get there today, even though we can play until 4.30pm GMT. Broad will continue; so the light is good enough to bowl the quicks at the moment. 

3:19PM

OVER 69: SA 193/6 (De Kock 52* Philander 23*) 

Stokes bowls a poorly directed bouncer - which doesn't bounce all that much. Philander rocks back and pulls to deep backward square where the fielder makes a hash of it and lets it through to the boundary. England losing a bit of control since that wicket. This partnership racing along at 5.7 runs per over. And that increases further as Stokes feeds De Kock outside the off stump with a full delivery. Timed through the covers for another four. Leaky. That's 50 for the keeper batsman off 94 balls. Nicely done. 

<span>Quinton de Kock scored a valuable 50 for South Africa</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Quinton de Kock scored a valuable 50 for South Africa Credit: AFP

 

3:14PM

OVER 68: SA 184/6 (De Kock 48* Philander 18*) 

Ah, the buffet bowling curse has stuck even Dom Bess. His first ball back is short and wide and De Kock is not going to miss out, cutting it for four through backward point. He gets back on his line and length later in the over, causing an inside edge onto the pad from De Kock. Better after that loosener. 

3:11PM

OVER 67: SA 180/6 (De Kock 44* Philander 18*) 

Anrich Nortje was dismissed on 18 after 136 balls. Philander got to 18 off 10. Dom Bess will return, replacing Joe Root. Sensibly. 

3:08PM

Stokes makes the breakthrough

3:06PM

OVER 66: SA 177/6 (De Kock 41* Philander 18*) 

Root goes too full to Philander, who drives through the covers. It goes under Stuart Broad, who made a bit of a mess of it.  Another boundary. 17 runs in the last six balls. Two more singles and then Root strays full again and Philander frees his arms and times another one through the covers for four. 23 runs in the last 10 balls...

3:02PM

OVER 65: SA 167/6 (De Kock 40* Philander 9*) 

Stokes drops short and Philander flicks it away to square leg for four. A bit of calypso cricket, if you will. The next one is even better: Stokes goes full - too full - this time and Philander drives through extra cover for another four. What did I say about runs drying up? Vern isn't going to die wondering, it seems. A single brings De Kock on strike and he glances the final ball of the over down to the long leg boundary for another four. 13 runs from that Stokes over. 

2:58PM

OVER 64: SA 154/6 (De Kock 36* Philander 0*) 

A Root maiden keeps things tidy. The runs have dried up for South Africa. Just 12 runs in the last 10 overs. 

2:56PM

OVER 63: SA 154/6 (De Kock 36* Philander 0*) 

Ben Stokes makes things happen, doesn't he? That's why it's baffling that it took 60 overs for him to be brought onto bowl. That was an brilliant innings from Nortje, though. Three hours 11 minutes out there, 136 balls for the nightwatchman. He was gutted to get out to that. He probably could have left it. A replay of England in a huddle after the wicket had fallen shows Root and Stokes waving goodbye to someone. Don't know why, don't know who. 

2:52PM

WICKET! Nortje b Stokes c Root 18

Stokes is trying something a bit different to Nortje here. Mixing up his speeds and lengths. He's a smart cricketer like that. In fact, he's just a smart cricketer. 

He gets one to move away from Nortje moving a little off the pitch and Nortje fends at it, taking the edge and Joe Root takes the catch at slip! Why oh why oh why wasn't Stokes on earlier? FOW 154/6

2:45PM

OVER 62: SA 154/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 36*) 

Root gets one to turn off the pitch to De Kock, it goes to slip but it's not off the bat. Still, it gripped. He's still coming in from very wide of the crease, around the wicket, round arm action. His five overs have gone for just eight runs. It has been a bit...low intensity from England in this session. Perhaps a drink well perk them up?

2:42PM

OVER 61: SA 154/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 36*) 

How is Stokes's first over? It's nearly a maiden but for a misfield off the final ball of the over - which gives De Kock a single - but nothing to threaten the batsman otherwise. Still, only his first over. 21 overs remain in the day. 

2:40PM

Stokes drops De Kock

2:37PM

OVER 60: SA 153/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 35*) 

De Kock's solitary single is the only run from Root's fourth over. Partnership approaching 50. Nortje doing the job brilliantly. Ben Stokes is about to come on for his first over of the innings. 

2:34PM

OVER 59: SA 152/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 34*) 

Not much happening in this Sam Curran over until the very final ball when something truly bizarre happens. Curran, running in, sticks the ball out in his right (non-bowling) arm before approaching the crease and Nortje backs away. Curran delivers the ball to an undefended set of stumps but it was not called a dead ball so it'd have been very interesting if it had have hit the stumps...

2:29PM

OVER 58: SA 152/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 34*) 

Joe Root continues, which is fine, but his under use of Stokes is maddening at times. 

Two runs to De Kock off that one.  

2:26PM

OVER 57: SA 150/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 32*) 

A single from De Kock takes SA to 150. Nortje has faced over 120 balls now and has stuck around brilliantly. With the rain predicted for the next few days batting time is important for the home team. Curran not really looking too threatening. 

2:23PM

OVER 56: SA 149/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 31*) 

De Kock looking to attack Root's off spin on the off side. But Root is bowling well wide of the crease and bowling it quickly into the rough outside the left hander's off stump. Root does eventually over pitch, though, and De Kock does not miss out with a caressed four through the covers. 

Another chance down! Off the final ball of the over, De Kock cuts Root off the back foot and gets a feather of an edge to Stokes standing at first slip. It goes through his hands and down! It was a sharp one, though. Maybe 3 or 4/10. Stokes has taken them before but he never really got much on it. 

2:19PM

OVER 55: SA 144/5 (Nortje 18* De Kock 26*)

The wet ball probably isn't helping matters as Curran continues. He has found a good line and length to Anrich Nortje but the nightwatchman looks fairly comfortable, as he pushes one onto the off side for two. England are in such a good position in the game that this partnership is not quite in the annoying bracket but with the weather and how quickly England got the first five, it's not far off. 

2:14PM

OVER 54: SA 142/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 26*)

Joe Root replaces Dom Bess. Will his more round-arm style of finger spinning cause the batters problems? Not yet. But he finds his spot consistently without any garbage that you sometimes get from part-time bowlers. Another maiden and England have stopped leaking runs since Wood came off. 28 overs left in the day's play. 

2:12PM

OVER 53: SA 142/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 26*)

It is not Stokes time. Not yet. Sam Curran replaces the profligate Mark Wood. His first ball is on the line of off stump and De Kock edges through third slip for two runs. No real signs of danger for South Africa in the last 40 minutes. Three from the over. 

2:07PM

Contrasting approaches since play resumed

2:06PM

OVER 52: SA 139/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 23*)

Blink and you'll miss it. Bess races through another six balls at the expense of one run. There doesn't seem to be a great deal of intensity from England at the moment. Has the prolonged rain break killed that off?

2:03PM

OVER 51: SA 138/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 22*)

De Kock is motoring now but Wood is putting fuel in his tank, as it were. Wood slings one down, slightly leggish and full. De Kock glances it through the leg side for a superb boundary. Wood again strays onto De Kock's pads and this time he glances it very fine and to the long leg boundary for another four. That's 20 runs in the last eight balls off Wood's bowling. Could - and should - be Wood's last over. A single off the final ball means De Kock keeps the strike and takes it to 21 runs off Wood's last two overs. Stokes time?

<span>Quinton de Kock plays to leg</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Quinton de Kock plays to leg Credit: AP

1:57PM

OVER 50: SA 128/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 13*)

Bess finds De Kock's outside edge but it lands safely. They run an easy single. That's all there is from the over. It hasn't been too eventful since the resumption. The one chance - a very difficult one - to short leg it wasn't taken. 

<span>Ollie Pope drops a very sharp chance at short leg</span> <span>Credit: REUTERS </span>
Ollie Pope drops a very sharp chance at short leg Credit: REUTERS

1:53PM

OVER 49: SA 127/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 12*)

De Kock nails one into the square leg fielder who shakes his hand straight after. He's timing it pretty well, especially when Wood overpitches - the keeper batsman standing and delivering an on-drive down the ground for four.

Wood is not looking particularly threatening at the moment. Or, at least, he isn't being threatening. In fact, he's serving up buffet bowling as one short and wide is cut away forward of square for another boundary by De Kock. Slashed. The final ball of the over is nearly another four but the flick through midwicket isn't timed well enough to reach the boundary. 

1:47PM

OVER 48: SA 116/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 1*)

Another maiden from Dom Bess. Nortje has now faced 101 balls in this innings, 16 runs at a SR of 15.84. Digging in in the extreme. Gutsy stuff. 

1:44PM

OVER 47: SA 116/5 (Nortje 16* De Kock 1*)

Wood is fired up here and has a pretty leg-ish field set. Fair to say Nortje won't be getting too many pitched up. He's is equal to a well-directed bouncer, though, ducking and swaying out of the way of a particularly swift one before tucking the next one off his hip for a single. Just that single from the over as the brilliant brass band belt out Eddy Grant's 'Gimme Hope Jo'Anna'. 

1:40PM

OVER 46: SA 115/5 (Nortje 15* De Kock 1*)

There's a bit of drizzle out there at the moment, which isn't ideal for the batsmen. The bowlers might not be too bothered, though Bess will if the ball gets too wet. The Somerset bowler races through his over and it's a maiden. 

1:37PM

OVER 45: SA 115/5 (Nortje 15* De Kock 1*)

Wood starts around the wicket to Nortje with a 91mph short one which the batsman digs in and plays down just in front of him. And again and again. He's getting in well behind it. Determined innings from the nightwatchman. He flicks the fourth ball through short leg but was it a chance? Yes! It went extremely hard into Pope's right hand but it didn't stick. They take a single. A technical chance but that's a 1/10 one at best. As Ollie Pope seems to be Ian Bell 2.0 it seems fitting that he's in at short leg, a position Bell made his own for years. 

De Kock off the mark with a single off the final ball, pushed through the covers. 

1:31PM

OVER 44: SA 113/5 (Nortje 14* De Kock 0*)

Bess finishes off his 19th over without too much alarm for the batters. De Kock sees off every ball with a quarter of solid pushes outside off. Mark Wood on next...

1:28PM

Play to restart at 1.30

Was it really worth delaying it four minutes for a spot of rain? Anyway. Here we go...Dom Bess to resume. 

1:25PM

OK, so a bit more rain...

...and then the covers came off again. Let's hope for some play soon. 

1:14PM

PLAY TO RESTART AT 1.26PM GMT

Hooray! Bring out the bunting champagne. Should get a good couple of hours in, then.  39 overs left in the day and play can go on until 6.30pm or 4.30pm UK time. Assuming no further delays or poor light. 

1:14PM

The U-19 cricket World Cup is currently taking place in South Africa

Play is underway in the Australia vs West Indies match but New Zealand vs Japan has been abandoned. Here's what the outfield looks like. A wetlands. Any idea what that bird is? I think, with limited research, they are blacksmith lapwings. 

1:08PM

Meanwhile, back at the Batcave...

1:03PM

Remembering Dan Lucas

Dan was a colleague whose words featured on these pages (and a fellow long-term Northants sufferer like me) but, of course, he was much more than that as a writer and person. Today would have been his 34th birthday. 

12:58PM

The covers are coming off!

Good news. We await a confirmation of an inspection time or anything further but hopefully we will see some play before the end of the day. Should they be able to get on the field by 1.45 they would probably be able to get 25-30 overs in by stumps. Enough to bowl England out?

12:46PM

Whither Moeen?

Does Dom Bess's five-fer mean that the man with 181 Test wickets and six Test centuries is unlikely to be recalled this year? Moeen is currently on a break from Test cricket and has spent the winter playing franchise cricket in South Africa and Abu Dhabi. England are off to Sri Lanka next, though, and were he available he'd probably get picked for that. Perhaps not as a first choice spinner, though. Nick Hoult caught up with him recently - read the whole interview here. 

<span>Will Moeen make himself available for England's Sri Lanka tour?</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Will Moeen make himself available for England's Sri Lanka tour? Credit: PA

 Still, it's interesting times for English spinners. Nobody is undroppable and you'd think that anyone who had a brilliant season in the County Championship stands a fair chance of being picked for squads for the Test matches later in the summer. If only there were more pitches conducive to spin...

12:34PM

I have no idea what Bess's Somerset team-mate Jack Brooks is on about here

 Is Dom Bess his landlord? Is he Dom Bess's landlord? Is he partial to a pint of Timothy Taylor's finest ale? As for thins? Your guess is as good as mine. 

12:30PM

Here's one for the stats fans

Dom Bess, taker of five wickets today (as you should be well aware) has not taken more than a single wicket in an innings for quite a while. In fact, since he took 3-45 against Essex in the County Championship at the beginning of June. 

12:12PM

Nick Hoult at the ground

Tells us that the covers are back on. And it's raining. Ahhhh. 

12:03PM

Afternoon...

The task of making this interesting is a challenge but one I hope  know I'm up to.  Dom Bess currently has five wickets in this innings. He's done that on eight other occasions in First-Class cricket and, if he can get another three wickets (or two more wickets for fewer than 75 additional runs) then he will have his career best innings bowling figures.  It looks likely at the moment on this pitch. 

<span>Dom Bess in action</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images Europe </span>
Dom Bess in action Credit: Getty Images Europe

11:55AM

I spoke too soon

The wicket is now covered again. There will be no play just yet.

I've had enough of rain updates, so I'm off for a break. I'll leave you in Luke Slater's capable hands. If anyone can make this interesting, Luke can.

11:53AM

The covers are off

The umpires are going back out for an inspection, but the ground staff are ready and waiting to bring the covers back out with the sky still looking pretty threatening.

11:38AM

Good news!

Nick Hoult has been in touch again - because the covers are coming off!

11:37AM

From our man on the ground

Nick Hoult reports from Port Elizabeth:

Weather has cleared a bit. Remains cloudy but we should get back on at some point today. Problem is the forecasts are so unreliable because the weather is very localised. It can be raining at the ground and dry a couple of miles down the road by the beach. Forecast is worse for tomorrow and Monday though. 

Sounds like we might be live blogging rain for much of the next two and a half days.

11:33AM

What a morning for Bess and Pope

Three wickets this morning for England's man of the moment, meaning he has his first five-for in Test cricket. He bowled brilliantly before the rain disrupted his momentum, mixing his bowling up effectively to keep his opponents guessing, and he might even have had another wicket were it not for Joe Root's lapse in concentration and dropped catch.

There were no such mistakes from Ollie Pope, who has taken the catch for three of Bess's wickets, including a truly outstanding take to dismiss Dean Elgar. Those two have been the stars this morning.

11:14AM

A sunnier scene

Safe to say the image on the screen in the Sky Sports studio was decided on before today's play. 

Sky sports studio
Sky sports studio

The sun is not shining in Port Elizabeth, but the rain is at least seemingly easing off. We are hopeful of some cricket in the not-too-distant future.

11:01AM

No news is...

bad news, unfortunately. It's still raining. Gorgeous sunshine in London, meanwhile. Though it is a little cold for cricket.

10:41AM

Frustration for England

England would love to be back out there and ramping up the pressure on South Africa. As things stand they still have plenty of time to wrap this match up but they need the rain to pass. The forecast isn't great for tomorrow or Monday... and it doesn't look right now like we'll be playing again any time soon.

<span>Rain has stopped play in Port Elizabeth</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Rain has stopped play in Port Elizabeth Credit: AP

 

10:28AM

It's still wet out there

The restart after lunch has been pushed back, I'm afraid.

10:10AM

Bess brilliance

Variation was the name of the game for Dom Bess this morning, and he won every battle he had. 

9:50AM

Lunch: SA 113/5

Dom Bess leads the England players off after an excellent morning's work. He has bowled brilliantly and took all three of today's wickets - taking him to his maiden five-wicket haul - and leaving South Africa in all kinds of difficulty.

South Africa remain an awfully long way from avoiding the follow-on, and their only hope now is surely that the rain persists. Or that Anrich Nortje can continue to keep England at bay. Back in a bit.

9:47AM

Rain stops play: early lunch

Oh, no. Bess gets just two balls in and then the rain gets just a bit stronger, so off trot the players. Lunch is taken early.

9:46AM

OVER 43: SA 113/5 (Nortje 14* De Kock 0*)

Nortje swats a poor ball from Denly for four... and all of a sudden some hope for South Africa! It has started drizzling! The ground staff have moved over to where the covers are, and the umpires are having a word. The floodlights are on, as well.

Bess is desperate to carry on... and he gets his wish.

9:42AM

OVER 42: SA 109/5 (Nortje 10* De Kock 0*)  

Quinton de Kock is the next man in. Will Bess be chasing all 10 now?!

9:41AM

WICKET!! Bess has his five-for!

Pope's reactions are brilliant... but not quite brilliant enough to take what would have been a sensational catch at short leg. It's impressive enough that he gets a hand to it!

But Bess doesn't need him just two balls later. He gets some wicked turn and Van der Dussen gets it all wrong, thinking it will stay wide enough to be cut but it is far too close to him. He gets an inside edge on the ball and it smashes into leg stump! Five wickets for Bess! Fow 109/5

9:36AM

OVER 41: SA 109/4 (Nortje 10* Van der Dussen 24*) 

Nortje is on the attack now too! He swings at one and mishits it, but then cuts beautifully shortly afterwards for four. Some intent from the batsmen, now.

<span>Van der Dussen is starting to score a little more consistently</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Van der Dussen is starting to score a little more consistently Credit: Reuters

9:32AM

OVER 40: SA 104/4 (Nortje 6* Van der Dussen 23*)

Van der Dussen is finding his feet out there, and he moves them to some effect here, coming to meet a short-ish ball from Bess and swatting high over mid-on with just one bounce on its way to the rope.

And again! This one gets even closer to the boundary - its inches from a maximum - and that brings up South Africa's 100.

Root responds by moving a man into the deep; Van der Dussen clips the next ball along the floor into a gap for a single. Well played, Rassie.

9:28AM

OVER 39: SA 93/4 (Nortje 6* Van der Dussen 12*)

Broad is off the field for a rest and Root turns to more spin, given what Bess has done this morning: Joe Denly is into the attack for England.

Little movement or threat, but just the one run scored. He'll be happy with that warm up.

9:25AM

OVER 38: SA 92/4 (Nortje 6* Van der Dussen 11*) 

Bess gets a bit more bounce and turn than we have seen previously and it takes everyone by surprise, including Jos Buttler behind the stumps. This one beats him and fizzes away for four byes.

9:24AM

OVER 37: SA 88/4 (Nortje 6* Van der Dussen 11*)

Nortje turns one around the corner from Broad for three. 69 balls faced for the nightwatchman and he is actually doing a really valuable job here.

9:19AM

OVER 36: SA 84/4 (Nortje 3* Van der Dussen 10*)  

Oh no! Bess should have his five-fer! Nortje steps back and pokes forward at one that stays straight, and he gets a big old edge on it. It zips quickly at Root at slip but he is far too slow to react and down it goes! A big chance goes begging, and Bess will be desperate that that doesn't cost him his five-wicket haul.

9:15AM

OVER 35: SA 83/4 (Nortje 3* Van der Dussen 9*) 

Wow. Broad gets one to kick up viciously at Nortje. He gets the face of his bat on it with only one hand on the handle and it so nearly drops straight to Pope at short leg. Another maiden from Broad.

9:09AM

OVER 34: SA 83/4 (Nortje 3* Van der Dussen 9*)

South Africa need to England a bit more to worry about here and VDD knows it. He comes charging down the track at Bess and smacks one past the despairing dive of Broad at mid-on for four.

9:05AM

A headscratcher of a morning for the hosts

<span>South Africa need Anrich Nortje and Rassie van der Dussen to dig in here</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
South Africa need Anrich Nortje and Rassie van der Dussen to dig in here Credit: Reuters

9:02AM

OVER 33: SA 78/4 (Nortje 2* Van der Dussen 5*)

Broad's getting closer! Van der Dussed leaves a few balls alone but then Broad makes him play at the next one, and he very nearly pops it straight back to Broad. Big Stu dives low to snaffle it but it drops just short of him.

Time for drinks.

8:59AM

OVER 32: SA 78/4 (Nortje 2* Van der Dussen 5*)  

No rest for Bess, and you'd have to assume he's more than happy about that given how this morning has gone so far. Just the one run for VDD. Nortje defends well.

8:55AM

OVER 31: SA 77/4 (Nortje 2* Van der Dussen 4*) 

Nortje is a lucky, lucky man. Broad catches him off guard with a surprise ball that moves back at the batsman and so, so nearly flicks the top of the bail. "Another coat of varnish, that's all that needed," says Shaun Pollock on Sky's commentary. It really was that close.

<span>Broad was millimetres from his first wicket of the innings</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Broad was millimetres from his first wicket of the innings Credit: Reuters

8:51AM

OVER 30: SA 77/4 (Nortje 2* Van der Dussen 4*)

Ollie Pope's reactions at short leg are just amazing. Where on earth has this boy been? He has already taken a brilliant catch this morning and here he prevents a few runs with another great stop. Nortje does get a well-run single off the final ball, though. Now the nightwatchman will face Broad.

8:46AM

OVER 29: SA 76/4 (Nortje 1* Van der Dussen 4*)  

The same, odd field as Broad continues to VDD. He probes outside off, Rassie pushed for two runs through backward point. Nothing else doing.

<span>England have plenty of men close in for Broad's start this morning</span> <span>Credit: SKY SPORTS </span>
England have plenty of men close in for Broad's start this morning Credit: SKY SPORTS

8:43AM

OVER 28: SA 74/4 (Nortje 1* Van der Dussen 2*) 

Bess changes his length up and very nearly catches Nortje out, but he just about gets his bat down in time to block it out.

8:39AM

OVER 27: SA 74/4 (Nortje 1* Van der Dussen 2*)

A change for England but no let up for South Africa: Stuart Broad comes into the attack. There are a lot of men around the bat. It's an unorthodox field, but it has been set out with real, palpable purpose.

There is a man in a short cover sort of position and Van der Dussen goes at one and very nearly puts it right down that fielder's throat! Denly can't quite get to it though and VDD is off the mark.

8:35AM

OVER 26: SA 72/4 (Nortje 1* Van der Dussen 0*) 

Bess to Nortje. Big strides from the batsman to the pitch of the ball and a strong defence. Far better than anyone else has offered so far, anyway.

<span>It's been some start to the day for Dom Bess</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
It's been some start to the day for Dom Bess Credit: Reuters

8:32AM

OVER 25: SA 72/4 (Nortje 1* Van der Dussen 0*)

Wood again, who has bowled very, very well and extremely economically this morning, and is just playing a sideshow role for Bess at the moment. Just a single for Nortje. Everything else well left or defended.

8:28AM

OVER 24: SA 71/4 (Nortje 0* Van der Dussen 0*)  

A big, big innings needed from Rassie van der Dussen, now.

Bess already has his career best figures. Now to get the best figures of all time.

8:27AM

WICKET!

Du Plessis c Pope b Bess 8

The under-pressure Faf du Plessis goes after Bess, skipping down the track to the pitch of the ball and swatting Bess through mid-off for four with a lovely shot. And then he does it again! This looks like just the way to play Bess, who is on fire, and then...

A bit of hesitation from Faf and he goes at the next one far less surely, trying to defend after using his feet well to come down the track, but he gets an inside edge on it and Pope takes another catch at short leg! That's two almost identical wickets this morning and both for Bess! South Africa four down - and they're all Dom Bess! Fow 71/4

8:20AM

OVER 23: SA 63/3 (Nortje 0* Du Plessis 0*) 

More Mark Wood. More real speed. Another maiden.

8:19AM

What a catch that was

Clip of this morning's early wicket here: 

8:18AM

OVER 22: SA 63/3 (Nortje 0* Du Plessis 0*)

Faf du Plessis is the next man in. The home side are in trouble.

8:17AM

WICKET!!

Elgar c Pope b Bess 35

Brilliant captaincy from Root. Elgar plays the first proper shot of the day through the covers as Bess strays a bit too short, so Root switches short leg to silly point. Elgar knows he has to be careful and and he tries his best to prod the next few balls down the pitch to safety, but he gets an inside edge on one, it bounces off his pad and Pope gets down really well to scoop his hand underneath the ball. Great catch, and South Africa are three down! Fow 63/3

8:11AM

OVER 21: SA 61/2 (Elgar 33* Nortje 0*)  

The first run of the day comes from a hugely unconvincing shot by Elgar, who swivels to hook and just seems to doubt his decision in the split second he has to react to the lightning-quick Wood. He doesn't go at the ball with any conviction and it comes off his thumb, spoons up in the air and lands safe in the gap behind square. 

8:08AM

OVER 20: SA 60/2 (Elgar 32* Nortje 0*) 

Dom Bess, England's dangerman - yes you read that right - up next from the other end. A little turn, plenty of skid to get things started. No run.

8:04AM

OVER 19: SA 60/2 (Elgar 32* Nortje 0*)

Wood said before the start of play that he didn't think the pitch "offered much for a seam bowler", but his actions speak far louder than his words in this first over as he turns Elgar inside out with two absolute snorters that straighten wickedly and beat the outside edge. Some start, that.

8:00AM

Mark Wood has ball in hand

And we're all set for day three.

7:59AM

Hoping for a full day of play

<span>The forecast in Port Elizabeth</span> <span>Credit: BBC </span>
The forecast in Port Elizabeth Credit: BBC

Clearly a chance of rain today. Hopefully not too much, though. 

7:48AM

Onto day three

Hello there and welcome to our coverage of day three of the third Test between South Africa and England from Port Elizabeth. What an intriguing match we have in store.

England are in full control of this match, having posted a first innings total of 499, and now, with South Africa two wickets down for just 60 runs, this could be the day when the series takes a huge swing England's way.

You might argue that one major incident had already given England the initiative: when Kagiso Rabada was given a demerit point for his celebration after dismissing Joe Root - and was therefore given a one-match ban, ruling him out of the final Test in Johannesburg. It was a decision that has struck up a huge debate. Here's what former England captain Michael Vaughan had to say on the topic.

It was a better day for Mark Wood, who could play a key role today, having also hit an impressive 42 from 37 balls at the end of England's innings. He has had his injury issues but his body will be put to the test today.

"The body's feeling good," he said this morning. "I was pleased with what I managed yesterday. The wicket isn't offering much for a seam bowler but we're looking forward to the day."

It's cloudy in Port Elizabeth but the forecast is good, and we're hoping for a full day's play.

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