Vernon Philander of South Africa bats during the third Test match between South Africa and England at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth, January 19 2020. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES
Vernon Philander of South Africa bats during the third Test match between South Africa and England at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth, January 19 2020. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES

SA were staring defeat square in the face after the fourth day’s play in the third Test against England at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

About two-and-a-half hours of play were lost due to rain on Sunday but there was still enough time for England to wreak havoc on the brittle home team batting line-up.

After being rolled early on Sunday morning for a dismal 209 in their first innings‚ the Proteas were teetering on an even more embarrassing 102/6 in their follow-on innings, still 188 behind England’s 499.

Vernon Philander (8) and Keshav Maharaj (5) were left carrying the slim hopes of SA fans when stumps were drawn.

It was another disastrous day of batting for the home team and there is little chance of them surviving the final day on Monday.

There is more rain in the forecast for day five but there is likely to be time enough for England to claim the last four wickets to go 2-1 up in the series with only the Wanderers Test to come.

SA’s first-innings nightwatchman Anrich Nortjé spoke passionately after play on Saturday about displaying some real fight in trying to save the Test.

Having demonstrated how to value your wicket during his three-hour vigil‚ his teammates cocked him a deaf one on Sunday morning as they capitulated meekly‚ tossing their last four wickets away in 28 balls for the addition of only one run.

They were told to follow-on by England skipper Joe Root and reached 15/0 before rain halted play an hour before lunch.

It took seven balls for England to strike after the resumption as Dean Elgar played across a delivery from an impressive Mark Wood to be bowled for 15.

Only four overs after that Hamza (2) flicked at a ball down leg-side from Wood and found an edge through to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

It was the second time Hamza was out in that manner in the series after Stuart Broad induced him into playing the same stroke in Centurion in the first Test.

Enter Root into the attack and his off-spin was immediately successful‚ trapping Pieter Malan leg before wicket in his first over.

After tea‚ Root was back in the action when Ollie Pope held on to a spectacular diving catch at short-leg off the bat of Rassie van der Dussen‚ who looked all at sea against the turning ball.

SA were in danger of collapsing like a cheap deck chair at a garage sale as captain Faf du Plessis stood looking on from the other end.

Quinton de Kock came and went for only three as Root forced him into playing a shot he would rather forget.

And then it was Du Plessis’s turn to trudge back as he bat-padded to Pope off Root, who finished the day with 4/31, his best figures in a Test.

Du Plessis made 36 in 144 minutes,  his highest score in eight innings, but that will do little to release the pressure he is under.

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