The Boxing Day Test in Centurion has been an eventful affair thus far. Jofra Archer claimed his third five-wicket haul in his relatively short Test career so far as South Africa ended up posting a target of 376 for English batsmen to chase. The hosts put up 125 in the first session which took the lead that South Africa had to 300 and continued to score runs slowly and patiently, adding another 75 runs to the total to take their lead to 376 before they gave way for 272.
In the first session, England claimed struck victims late but they were frustrated in the second half, primarily by the exploits of Vernon Philander who scored well-built innings of 46 runs in 64 deliveries. The hosts began the session on the day at 197 for 7 but it wasn’t long before Ben Stokes got rid of Quinton de Kock who was starting to cause all kinds of problems to Jofra Archer. Philander and Keshav Maharaj put up a 30 run stand together. Jofra Archer put away the frustration from the New Zealand tour behind him with a fine performance in the Boxing Day Test as he claimed his fifth victim in Maharaj.
England began their innings with a scare as Rory Burns survived a leg-before-wicket appeal on the last ball of the very first over. Burns was adjudged to be out but when asked for a replay, he managed to stay on as replays suggested the ball missed the off stump. They survived the remaining 20 minutes before the break and at Tea, they were at 24 for no loss needing another 352 runs to give them the Test victory.
Before in the day, Rassie van der Dussen and Andrich Nortje combined to frustrate England on the pitch as they put up the most fruitful partnership of the match when they survived close to 90 minutes to add 91 runs for the fifth wicket on the board, taking South Africa’s lead over England close to 300. It wasn’t just smooth sailing for the pair as they both survived some scares and pretty close calls. In the 25th over, Nortje was adjudged caught behind but reviewing the decision got it reversed. Van der Dussen was fortunate when the decision of him getting trapped in front in the 33rd over went in his favor. The reviews clearly showed that the ball had missed Van der Dussen’s leg stump.
Archer finally managed to get another wicket in the day with less than half an hour to go in the session. Rassie van der Dussen, after scoring his maiden half-century in Test cricket was once again caught in front and given leg before wicket. Nortje too produced his best in Tests as he fell in the 41st over – caught at short leg off Archer – as he made 40 off 89.
England is still struggling with issues related to illness as they missed the services of Joss Buttler who did not take to the field. Jonny Bairstow pulled gloves for them instead and stood behind the stumps. Joe Root had to miss the action on the field for a considerable amount of time as he felt unwell in the first session.
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