Happy Sunday. Is it Sunday? I think it’s Sunday. England looked like they didn’t know what day it was yesterday at any rate, bowling plans all over the place and various players either too ill to take the field or having to go off every few minutes to commune with the porcelain god.
A grim third day means England will resume their innings on 121/1, Rory Burns 77* and Joe Denly 10*, which doesn’t sound too bad on paper. They are chasing a target of 376, which would break their record chase score, but then they have done that once already this year, so why not? Well, lots of reasons why not. Illness, skill, temperament, Philander, Rabada, pitch, bounce…
“There’s a lot of runs to get but there is belief in our dressing room and maybe that’s because of what the players achieved in the summer. We’ll keep fighting all the way in this team and if we have a good first session, take the Test match deep, who knows?”
Why are they in this position having won the toss, against a team who were in turmoil at the start of the match?
England’s target of 376 still looks insuperable – it would be their record run-chase, even higher than the 359 which they chased down at Headingley against Australia back in August by one wicket – and South Africa are halfway to being re-armed with a second new ball. But a defeat will at least be of the honourable kind in the flu-ridden circumstances, rather than the opposite which it had threatened to be, and will give England hope they can yet win this four-match series.
Mr Scyld explains how the poor bowling has put the batsmen in a pickle.
But England had lost all realistic hope of winning this game long before they batted. It was when they tried Bodyline that they lost the plot and the psychological advantage they had going into this series against the depleted and raw home side. If it was inept to allow South Africa to score 277, after they had been 72 for four overnight, it was indefensible that they did so at 4.4 runs per over.
I would also add to that: the batsmen slumping from 142/3 to 181 all out in the first innings. Defeat has many fathers.