AB de Villiers scored a stylish, unbeaten half-century as patient South Africa edged ahead of Australia on a slow wicket on the second day of the second Test, going to the close at 263 for seven at St George’s Park on Saturday.
The home side have a narrow advantage of 20 runs with the brilliant De Villiers on 74 from 81 balls and all-rounder Vernon Philander to resume on 14 in the search for what could be crucial first innings runs in an engrossing contest.
Opener Dean Elgar (57 from 197 balls) and Hashim Amla (56 from 148 balls) had earlier put on 88 in 46.2 overs for the third wicket as South Africa crawled towards Australia’s first innings total of 243, including adding just 43 runs in 26 overs in the middle session of the day.
But once De Villiers came to the wicket, he immediately started scoring all round the wicket, injecting urgency into the South African innings and putting the pressure back on the Australian bowlers.
The tourists continued to chip away at the other end though, with the reverse-swinging ball collecting four quick wickets after tea.
Amla was bowled by an excellent delivery from Mitchell Starc (1-78) that cannoned into his off-stump, before Elgar edged Josh Hazlewood (1-73) to wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Mitchell Marsh (2-26), who had been ill on day one, looked full of energy as he got two balls to tail in late and remove home captain Faf du Plessis (9) and Theunis de Bruyn (1) leg before wicket.
When spinner Nathan Lyon (1-29) bowled Quinton de Kock (9), South Africa still trailed by 16 runs with three wickets remaining, but De Villiers continued to play positive cricket as he looked supremely comfortable at the crease, in stark contrast to just about every other batsman in the game.
One of the elements that had livened up a slow day out in the middle, the brass band that has been a popular fixture at St George’sPark for two decades, was asked to stop playing by umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Sundaram Ravi, who claimed they could not hear the nicks off the bat.
That left large sections of the crowd chanting their displeasure but with each run scored by the home side, those jeers turned to cheers as South Africa look to level the four-match series having lost the first Test in Durban by 118 runs.
Nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada (29) was the only batsman out in the first two sessions. He has also been charged with a Level Two offence by the International Cricket Council. The hearing will take place on Sunday.
He was originally scheduled to hear his fate after play on day two, but one of the standing umpires from Friday, New Zealander Chris Gaffaney, was not fit to sit in on the process due to health issues.