England’s cricketers encountered some improbable turbulence in their otherwise serene march to victory at Port Elizabeth, as a record-breaking spell of tonking from South Africa’s tenth-wicket pair, Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson reduced their margin of victory from overwhelming to merely emphatic – by an innings and 53 runs, to claim a 2-1 series lead with just next week’s fourth Test at Johannesburg to come.
Having resumed on a ropey 102 for 6, with their only realistic prospect of salvation coming in the prospect of more bad weather, South Africa seemed resigned to their third-heaviest home defeat since readmission when they shipped three more wickets in the first hour of the morning to slip to 138 for 9.
But then, out of the wreckage, rose an unlikely and entertaining star. Maharaj, with the debutant Paterson providing steadfast support, took it upon himself to climb into the second new ball, smashing 71 from 106 runs all told, including a rip-roaring stand of 99 in 73 balls.
At times, it was like watching Nathan Astle’s extraordinary onslaught at Christchurch in 2002, as England discovered too late that the harder the ball, the further it travelled. In all the pair crashed 16 fours and three sixes, with Maharaj claiming a share in an unlikely world record when he scalped 24 of the 28 runs from Joe Root’s 29th and emphatically final over, to match the mark established by George Bailey off James Anderson in the 2013-14 Ashes and Brian Lara’s effort off Robin Peterson.
Paterson, emboldened by a match situation that gave him licence to swing his levers with no consequences, clouted 39 not out from 40 balls, including three fours in the penultimate over of the contest as Sam Curran was slashed repeatedly through third man.
But with the deficit draining away and the lunch looking set to be postponed, a direct hit from Curran at mid-on ended the fun to seal England’s first innings victory away from home since the fifth Test at Sydney on Andrew Strauss’s triumphant Ashes tour in 2010-11.
The finale aside, this was another impressive performance from a young England team that has turned the series on its head after their heavy defeat at Centurion in the first Test.—Agencies