Durban – It seemed almost poetic that the clouds that rolled over Kingsmead on day four of the opening Test between South Africa and England.
By the close yesterday the Proteas were 136/4 in pursuit of the 416 required to pull off what is, at this stage, looking like an unlikely victory.
The dismissal of Faf du Plessis, the recipient of an absolute peach from Steven Finn and then a sharp catch by Alastair Cook at first slip, late in the day didn’t help the cause as his tenacious stand of nine off 66 balls came to an end in the final over of the day
It wasn’t so much that they added to the view from the press box and created an image worthy of whipping out the smart phone to take a picture but rather that they hung thick and grey at a time when the pressure intensified on the hosts.
After Dane Piedt had claimed a maiden Test five-for in the morning, and then Stiaan van Zyl wrapped up the three remaining England wickets to leave himself and Dean Elgar a tricky period to negotiate before tea.
“Obviously it wasn’t ideal to lose Faf so late in the day but the batters coming in are really going to knuckle down and try to take it as long as possible and extend it session by session. It’s all we can do and hopefully it goes our way.”
With the pressure on South Africa’s batting lineup ramped up after failure in the first innings, apart from Dean Elgar’s century and AB de Villiers 49, Van Zyl and his opening partner looked to have weathered the storm before the break. But Ben Stokes had other ideas.
After bringing up only the third half-century stand in their brief time together in the opener’s role, Van Zyl had the top of his off-stump clipped by the England all-rounder. At that stage it was 53/1 and in walked Hashim Amla.
But the captain’s dry spell would continue, he did however manage to his one of his trademark drives, and he flashed at a wide delivery and was caught behind off Finn. The England paceman would also account for Elgar, forcing him to play a rash shot to edge to Joe Root in the slips for 40.
The current situation means that the Proteas have three sessions to fight through today in order to ensure a draw. They’re still 280 adrift of the target.
Renowned author Enid Blyton once wrote about a patch of blue sky being a precursor for a happy ending. There were no patches over Kingsmead.