By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Off-spinner Dane Piedt raised hopes of an unlikely South African victory as he grabbed three wickets on Wednesday to leave England on 155 for six at tea on the final day of the high-scoring second test.
Just when it seemed that the match was heading for a draw, Piedt raised prospects of an unexpected victory after claiming the wickets of Nick Compton, first innings double centurion Ben Stokes and James Taylor which left England with a 157-run lead going into the final session.
Jonny Bairstow (26 not out) and Moeen Ali (10 not out) frustrated South Africa’s efforts to skittle England out cheaply in their second innings and set themselves a reachable target before close of play on Wednesday.
Cloud cover over Newlands offered bowlers the swing that had been missing over the previous four, searingly-hot days and helped South Africa to claim quick wickets to spice up the game.
England’s batsmen looked short on confidence as a little moisture in the air and an absence of wind presented bowlers with a window of opportunity.
England started the day on 16-0 in their second innings, having an 18-run lead over South Africa after both posted high-scoring totals in the first innings.
Cook (8) was strangled down the leg side and caught by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock off Kagiso Rabada’s bowling on the eighth ball of the morning with England having added a single to their overnight total.
Alex Hales (5) was snagged by a brilliant diving one-handed catch from Chris Morris at slip to give Morne Morkel a deserved wicket after some fiery bowling.
Joe Root was caught in the slips by AB de Villiers off Morkel on 17 but television replays showed the bowler had stepped over the line.
But England’s top-ranked batsman failed to capitalise on the reprieve and scored 12 more runs before being bowled by Morris to leave England on 55-3.
Compton fell 10 minutes before lunch as he played straight to Faf du Plessis at short mid-wicket and was out after a tentative 15.
After lunch, Piedt dismissed Stokes, caught at deep square leg for 26, and Taylor, who got a nasty bounce up onto his gloves and was caught by Temba Bavuma at short leg for 27.
England had looked set to win a second successive test when they went on a run-scoring riot on Sunday to shatter several records in amassing 629 for six declared.
But South Africa batted themselves back into the game over three days eventually declaring on 627-7 some 30 minutes before the end of Tuesday’s play and then sparking hopes of victory with an attacking bowling display on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by Pritha Sarkar)