South Africa v England: Rory Burns leads unlikely pursuit of 376

Rory Burns

First Test, Supersport Park, Centurion (day three of five):
South Africa 284 (De Kock 95, Curran 4-58) & 272 (Van der Dussen 51, Archer 5-102)
England 181 (Denly 50, Philander 4-16) & 121-1 (Burns 77*)
England chasing 376 to win
Scorecard

Rory Burns’ unbeaten 77 gave England hope of chasing an unlikely 376 to beat South Africa in the first Test in Centurion.

The opener, who put on 92 for the first wicket with Dom Sibley, steered England to 121-1 at the close of day three, with 255 still needed for what would be England’s highest run chase.

South Africa were dismissed for 272 as Jofra Archer took 5-102.

England, though, were afflicted by illness on day three.

Jos Buttler did not take to the field and was replaced behind the stumps by Jonny Bairstow, while captain Joe Root also spent time off the field.

Is the chase on?

England will need to complete their highest run chase, surpassing the 362 they made to beat Australia at Headingley in August, if they are to win this Test.

England’s highest successful Test run chases
362-9 v Australia, Headingley, 2019
332-7 v Australia, Melbourne, 1928
315-4 v Australia, Headingley, 2001
307-6 v New Zealand, Christchurch, 1997
298-4 v Australia, Melbourne, 1895

The highest successful chase at Centurion by a visiting team is England’s 251-8 in 2000, a Test which was later referenced in a match-fixing trial involving then South Africa skipper Hansie Cronje.

Burns and Sibley played well in conditions that were suited to bowling. Burns was the more fluent of the two, hitting several confident drives through mid-wicket, while Sibley was patient against a disciplined attack.

The chase looked to have got off to a poor start when Burns was given out lbw to Kagiso Rabada for six in the first over, but a review showed the ball was missing off stump.

Burns also profited from another mistake in the field as the metronomic Vernon Philander found the outside edge on 20, and the low offering was dropped by Rassie van der Dussen at first slip.

Sibley grew in confidence, clipping Dwaine Pretorius through mid-wicket for four, as the two shared England’s highest opening partnership of 2019.

However, Sibley was visibly frustrated after he chipped a Keshav Maharaj delivery straight back to the bowler.

South Africa are without a win in five Tests but, on a pitch that has shown uneven bounce since the first day, it will still require a huge effort from England to secure an unlikely win.

England toil with ball

Jofra Archer celebrates a wicket

England’s performance in the morning session was reminiscent of their recent overseas tours to Australia: a tired bowling attack, lacking consistency, being flayed around the ground.

They had their chances, with substitute fielder Zak Crawley missing a run-out of Van der Dussen early on – and his 91-run stand with nightwatchman Anrich Nortje further frustrated England.

The tourists did not bowl full enough to Van der Dussen – he was eventually trapped lbw for 51 by a pitched-up Archer delivery – and allowed Nortje to settle into a rhythm before he eventually fended Archer to short leg.

Quinton de Kock attacked Archer, hooking consecutive 90mph deliveries for six, and could have done further damage had he not walked after edging Stokes to Bairstow.

The final four batsmen added 102 runs as England’s bowlers were kept out in the field for much of the day, with Philander scoring 46.

Archer claimed his third five-wicket haul in seven Tests but he finished the innings with an economy rate of 6.00.

While England have been hampered by illness in the build-up to this Test, they looked worryingly flat so early in such a big series.

‘A 5% chance of winning’ – what they said

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “England’s chance of winning is probably 5%, but you are against a team who has lost any kind of winning habit at all.

“It is important to remember it is certainly not 0%, which it was halfway through this afternoon. South Africa’s bowling didn’t seem to have much confidence or belief about it.”

England batting coach Graham Thorpe on the Test Match Special podcast: “We’ve got a chance.

“We know the fight we’ve got in our dressing room and what we’re going to try and achieve tomorrow.”

Ex-England assistant coach Paul Farbrace on The Cricket Social: “England have batted themselves into a good position.

“The first hour tomorrow will be really important. Even losing one wicket on a pitch like this causes you to lose momentum.”

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