RORY BURNS and Dominic Sibley got England away to a spirited start as they set about a ground record runs chase for victory on the third afternoon of the first Test match against the Standard Bank Proteas at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on Saturday.
The tourists were set a target of 376 – the highest fourth innings successful runs chase stands at 251 by England in 2000 – as the batsmen were able to dominate sessions for the first time in the match with only three wickets falling in each of the first two sessions and only one in the final one. This was in comparison to the 9 wickets that fell on day one and the 15 on day two.
As a result the Proteas took charge in the morning session, scoring 125 for the loss of three wickets at a rate of more than 5 to the over. This was largely due to career best innings of 51 by debutant Rassie van der Dussen (67 balls, 5 fours) and night watchman Anrich Nortje (40 off 89 balls, 6 fours).
The England seamers decided to pepper Nortje with short-pitched deliveries and it took a long time for that tactic to work with 91 runs being added for the fifth wicket partnership.
There was a further 95 runs scored for the last three wickets led by Vernon Philander who continued a good all-round match before being last man out (46 off 68 balls, 4 fours).
Jofra Archer took the bowling honours with his third five-wicket haul in only his 7th Test match (5/102 in 17 overs).
Burns, who was dropped on 20, and Sibley then got England away to a confident start with their partnership of 92 in 28 overs before the latter gave a return catch to Keshav Maharaj.
The left-arm spinner started to get turn out of the rough to add an extra attacking dimension to the Proteas bowling line-up.
Burns went on to a confident half-century (his sixth in 15 matches) and finished the day on 77 (117 balls, 11 fours) although he had a narrow escape off the penultimate ball of the day with an edge off Maharaj that narrowly evaded Faf du Plessis at slip.
The spinner finished the day with 1/16 in 10 overs and clearly has a big role to play on day four.
England finished on 121/1, needing a further 255 for victory.