England vs South Africa 2017, 3rd Test: ‘We’re in a Bit of a Hole But We Will Fight’ – Adrian Birrell
With their back firmly against the wall in the ongoing Test at The Oval, South Africa is seeking inspirations from their past heroics when they come out to bat on the final day of the penultimate game of the series.
In 2012, Faf du Plessis, on his debut, had saved the Test against Australia by playing an unbeaten knock of 110, as the Proteas escaped with a draw after being set an improbable target of 430 and needing to bat for four and a half sessions on a wearing Adelaide Oval pitch.
They once again repeated their heroics in the very next year when they had eight wickets in hand after day four against India and Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2014 when they had nine.
South Africa is in a similar match situation against England too and would need a new saviour on the final day. Chasing an improbable 492, South Africa were 117 for four, thanks to Dean Elgar’s unbeaten 72, as their top-order once again failed to fire.
Speaking after the day’s play, South Africa’s assistance coach Adrian Birrell insisted the visitors would not give up and have faith in their abilities due to the past experiences.
“We’re in a bit of a hole but we will fight,” said Birrell. “We’ve fought before so we have belief. It’s quite a buoyant change room – it’s not doom and gloom. The prospects some time ago when we had to block out against India were similar, and we’ve managed a similar feat against Sri Lanka to save a game and win a series there. So there is hope because it’s something that we have done before.”
However, the enormity of the task at The Oval is perhaps greater than the past games. AB de Villiers, who had scored a 220-ball 30 against Australia in past and had scored a century against India, is not playing the match while Faf du Plessis who too had scored a century against India as well as Australia, is back in the pavilion for a golden duck.
Hashim Amla, who had batted for more than eight hours against Sri Lanka, is also dismissed for only five.
In such a case, South Africa will need someone else to stand up and save the game. And while Birrell said that the team is pinning its hopes on Elgar, Bavuma and Vernon Philander to a certain extent, he is under no illusion that the chances are slim.
“Our two fantastic blockers are out, so someone else is going to have to block,” said Birrell. “When you look at the players to come, we’re very reliant on the two that are in now to bat long, and Vernon as well because he’s been not-out before in matches where we have needed to block out. So there is not a huge expectation but there is hope.”
As if the problems were not enough already, Elgar has a bruised left index finger after taking several blows during his dodgy knock.
Speaking about that Birrell said:
“It’s not broken, and if it was broken it wouldn’t make a difference. He’s a fighter.”
Bavuma would be central to South Africa’s expectations and the right-handed batsman has already shown that he has the potential to do the task. After a fighting fifty in the first innings, he came out to bat in the second when the Proteas were reeling at 52 for four and saw out 59 deliveries for his unbeaten 16 to help South Africa close the day without suffering further setbacks.
When asked about the advice that would be given to Bavuma, Birrell said:
“Do what he does best. He toughs it out; he’s a tough little guy and he’s not going to be overawed by the occasion. He’s shown before that there’s a lot to him. He’s batting very well so he must just carry on.”
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