It was left to captain Joe Root and Ollie Pope to steady the tourists, taking them to – 4 when bad light ended play.
despite the collapse, England still have the opportunity to build a sizable first-innings total, which would then give them the opportunity to pressure South Africa on a pitch which seems set to crack.
Conversely, the Proteas ‘recovery from a sloppy first session means they can still bowl out the tourists relatively cheaply.
England lead the series 2-1 and will secure only a second overseas series win in four years if they avoid defeat.
(Action all the way in day of two halves)
Even though rain wiped out the entire first session, the amount of action before the toss took place gave a preview of the lively cricket that would follow.
With the pitch appearing, and later proving, to offer pace and bounce, both sides omitted their specialist spinners in favor of five fast bowlers each.
For England, that meant checks on the fitness of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer. The latter is not yet fully recovered from an elbow injury, meaning a return for Chris Woakes.
Given the surface, the damp and the cloud, choosing to bat first carried an element of risk for Root, who banked on his batsmen coming through the early challenge, allowing his attack to take advantage of any deterioration later in the match.
That they did so was down to a combination of the endeavor shown by Crawley and Sibley, and the lackluster performance by the South Africans.
With England seemingly in a prime position, the Proteas finally provided a sustained threat with the ball, and the quadruple strike left the match nicely poised.
Crawley the latest youngster to shine
This series has been one where England’s youngsters have come to the fore – with maiden centuries for Sibley and Pope, and a first five-wicket haul for off-spinner Dom Bess.
Kent opener Crawley, aged , only has a first-class average of 90, but played a series of glorious strokes to demonstrate the potential on which he has been picked.
As South Africa’s bowlers struggled with length, the tall Crawley took every opportunity to drive, peppering the straight and cover boundaries.
With Sibley overturning being given out caught down the leg side on 27, then being caught off a no-ball on 30, they shared England’s first century opening stand since Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings against India in Chennai in 46039 Not only that, but it was England’s first three-figure opening partnership when batting first in a Test since
There have been times in the series when Crawley has been troubled by the short ball, and just before tea he took a nasty blow to the helmet from Anrich Nortje.
After the break, he tried to withdraw his bat from a lifting a delivery from Vernon Philander, and was furious when he gave an edge to first slip.
When a Root single took England to – 4, it was also their , th run in all Test cricket
(Proteas finally fire)
In conditions that should have helped their bowlers, South Africa were initially toothless, meandering through the first session with neither control nor a sustained threat.
As poor as they were before tea, they were excellent afterwards, using the conditions with hostility to pressurise England into mistakes.
Sibley gloved left-armer Hendricks, in the side for the suspended Kagiso Rabada, down the leg side, with Crawley falling (balls later.
) Denly was strangely out of sorts in his time at th e crease. He was dropped twice and inside-edged past his own stumps on two occasions before he was caught at first slip off Dane Paterson, who was South Africa’s standout bowler.
The pace of Nortje drew Stokes into an unnecessary drive, a dismissal which may have further ramifications for the verbal confrontation Stokes appeared to have on his way back to the dressing room.
Root and Pope were left to battle through a testing spell in the gathering gloom, and it was England who were happier to see the light intervene with just over half an hour of play remaining.
I was eyeing three figures ‘