CAPE TOWN – Temba Bavuma became the first black South African to make a test century in helping his team defiantly declare at 627-7 in reply to England’s 629-6 declared in the second test on Tuesday.
Captain Hashim Amla made 201 and Bavuma reached 102 not out to effectively wipe out England’s advantage and probably save a draw with one day to play on a serene pitch where runs have flowed and bowlers have struggled.
Bavuma, raised in a poor township in Cape Town, gave South Africa a feel-good moment after the pressure it’s been under early in this series, and in this game.
“When I made my debut for South Africa I came to be a bit more aware, and realize the significance behind it more,” said Bavuma, the first black specialist batsman to play for the Proteas. “It’s always been an inspiration for other kids, black African kids, to aspire to.”
England was 16-0 in its second innings to lead by 18 after batting out the last six overs of the day.
A victory for either team is unlikely at Newlands. England still leads the four-match series 1-0 but South Africa will take heart by a return to form from its batting ahead of decisive tests in Johannesburg and Centurion.
England was left ruing a bunch of missed catches, giving let-offs to Amla, Bavuma, and AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Chris Morris, who all made half-centuries in the South African rally.
“We’re extremely disappointed that we’ve missed chances,” England assistant coach Paul Farbrace said. “The upside is that we’ve created chances on a flat pitch.”
The dream batting strip helped South Africa as much as it helped England in its first innings, when Ben Stokes struck a stunning 258 from 198 balls.
It was so good that tailender Morris hit boundaries with reverse sweeps off England spinner Moeen Ali, and was the fifth South African to go past 50 with his 69.
Earlier, Amla’s double century was his fourth double ton, and second against England, and marked a significant return to form.
The only glimpse of hope for England came in the afternoon, when Amla’s dismissal sparked three quick wickets in four overs from Stuart Broad and James Anderson and a brief opportunity to push for victory. England had waited 70 overs for any kind of breakthrough.
Broad began by bowling Amla for 201 and had Quinton de Kock caught for just 5. Between those strikes, Anderson forced out Faf du Plessis to a catch in the slips for 86.
The three rapid strikes threatened to derail South Africa’s rally and leave it still some way behind. When De Kock went, South Africa was still 180 runs adrift.
But Bavuma and tailender Chris Morris responded with a century stand, the third of the South African innings.
Bavuma’s family watched from the stands, including his father, who used to be a journalist.
“He was here today. He’s quite happy. I’ll see him later tonight. He’ll probably have a few questions as well,” Bavuma said.