England will have to rewrite Test history if they are to beat South Africa at Trent Bridge after the tourists ground out a near impregnable position.
Half-centuries from Hashim Amla (87), Dean Elgar (80) and Faf du Plessis (63) helped South Africa pile up 343 for nine declared just before stumps on day three in the second Investec Test, to set a target of 474 which significantly exceeds the highest total ever made for victory in the fourth innings.
That feat stands to West Indies, who made 418 for seven against Australia at Antigua in 2003, while the ground record of a mere 284 here was down to England against New Zealand a year later.
On a pitch which has offered increasingly variable bounce to the seamers – although most often at the Radcliffe Road end only – England may do well to approach either.
In four nervy overs of batting after South Africa’s declaration, they at least came through unscathed on one without loss, albeit after Alastair Cook had to overturn a faulty lbw decision against him when Morne Morkel thought he was in business with the very first ball of the innings.
TWEET OF THE DAY
There was precious little to shout about for the hosts on day three, but former England seamer Simon Jones was punching the air after Liam Dawson got Amla lbw on DRS.
THIS IS HOW YOU BAT
Amla and Du Plessis could score only 15 runs in the 10 overs after lunch, with England’s seamers bowling well. Neither succumbed, though, and South Africa profited.
On Saturday’s evidence, England’s batsmen are currently incapable of soaking up that sort of pressure without pressing the default counter-attack button.
Roger Federer is not the only sportsman proving age is no barrier. James Anderson’s seven wickets in this match have taken his top-of-the-tree Trent Bridge tally to 60. He will be 35 this month, and England are hoping he can keep defying the bottom line.
STAT OF THE DAY
284 – The ground-record chase, achieved by England for six wickets, gives context to the mighty challenge facing the hosts this time. An unbeaten Graham Thorpe hundred helped pull off the improbable in 2004 against New Zealand. It was a memorable innings, yet much more will be needed to rewrite history.
We already seem to have reached checkmate. It is surely a matter of time before 1-1 is confirmed and we move on to The Oval.