By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – England struck twice in quick succession to dismiss Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar as they approached half centuries, reducing South Africa to 152 for three wickets at tea.
The tourists, however, came under an attacking onslaught from new South Africa captain AB de Villiers, who raced to 29 off 34 balls and remained unbeaten at the interval, along with Faf du Plessis (6).
Amla fell to a vicious in-swinging delivery from Steven Finn, caught behind for 40 not long after Elgar got a thin edge to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off the spin of Moeen Ali.
Opener Elgar had proved industrious in nullifying the England’s bowlers under overcast conditions perfectly suited for the visitors’ seam attack.
But only four runs short of his 50, Elgar fiddled at a short delivery from Moeen to nick the ball to the keeper with the score on 117 and South Africa threatening to build an imposing total as the sun began to shine.
Amla fell three overs and 10 runs later to an unplayable delivery from Finn, whose late movement with the ball contrasted with the lack of impact from the opening pair of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Stiaan van Zyl had been dismissed before lunch when he top-edged an attempted pull and was caught by Bairstow off the bowling of Ben Stokes for 21.
De Villiers had won the toss and elected to bat in an effort to put pressure on the visitors, saying the decision was based on the batting form of his team from the second test at Newlands, where they fought valiantly to earn a draw after England had scored 626 in the first innings. South Africa, who trail 1-0 in the four-match series, made two changes from the second test, including wicketkeeper Dane Vilas, who had to make a bizarre last-minute dash to the New Wanderers Stadium to play.
Vilas was called up as a late replacement for the injured Quinton de Kock and arrived 40 minutes after the start of play, having flown up from Port Elizabeth, where he had been due to play in a four-day provincial match.
The 30-year-old keeper was given a police escort to speed his journey to the ground after De Kock sustained a freak injury to his right knee on Wednesday.
“Quinton slipped and sprained his right knee at home late yesterday afternoon,” South Africa manager Mohammed Moosajee said on Thursday.
(Editing by David Goodman)