Dom Bess five-for fires England before Quinton de Kock defiance

South Africa 208 for 6 (de Kock 63*, Philander 27*) trail England 499 for 9 dec by 291 runs

Dom Bess became the latest of England’s young bloods to leave his mark on South Africa but the old foe of bad weather, coupled with some much-needed defiance from the home batsmen (plus a few dropped catches), prevented the tourists from maximising their advantage on day three in Port Elizabeth.

With Bess producing his most impressive display in an England shirt to secure a maiden Test five-for, the threat of the follow-on loomed large for South Africa. But they were able to recover from a position of 109 for 5 thanks to Quinton de Kock‘s third half-century of the series, as well as 136 balls of dogged resistance from the nightwatchman, Anrich Nortje.

De Kock was unbeaten on 63 at the close, having put on partnerships of 45 with Nortje and an unbroken 54 with Vernon Philander. He might have been dismissed three times by spin but on each occasion Ben Stokes was unable to hold on to sharp chances at slip – and with another 26 overs lost due to rain, England’s prospects of capturing a series lead before the teams move on to Johannesburg looked to have taken a hit.

South Africa’s captain, Faf du Plessis, pronounced before the third Test that his team had made “huge steps in the right direction” against England, following a run of five consecutive defeats. While du Plessis could not extricate himself from his own run of bad form, falling to Bess for the second time in as many innings, the bloody-minded efforts of de Kock and, in particular, Nortje, gave his side something to rally around.

Although there was no doubting England were on top, they seemed likely to find themselves in a battle against time, the elements and an unforgiving pitch – with de Kock’s rearguard blocking their path to enforcing the follow-on, and 92 runs still needed for South Africa to take the decision out of Joe Root’s hands.

More to follow…