Test cricket can be such a teasing beast. One hour you think you’re ahead, then the other side takes wickets in bunches, or puts together a century partnership.
This was proven last week with two sides shadow-boxing on a slow pitch before the rain came. Things are moving a lot faster here.
Yesterday, JP Duminy took four wickets without really earning any of them. Today he repaid the generosity. When you get a non-swinging half volley on leg stump there are lots of things you can do with it other than chip it gently to mid-wicket.
A few overs later Amla did something similar. Nicholls was following up his breakthrough innings on Day 1 with a couple of tidy catches.
Du Plessis chased a mild outswinger and somehow got an inside edge which Watling did well to readjust and take it. At that stage South Africa was 94/6 and the crowd were pinching themselves. This was probably the most dominant position a side had been in during the entire series. Since then the tourists have added 255 runs
Patel then bowled one over to de Kock before lunch and the batsman did not look at all comfortable. Perhaps all the chatter of a psychological advantage during the week had some merit after all.
But this is test cricket, and de Kock and Bauvuma had other ideas. Not unlike Nicholls and Watling yesterday they showed that batting on this pitch after lunch was pretty easy. In fact you could argue it should be easy to bat on from now on.
And like yesterday the bowling captain adopted strangely defensive fields. Some may argue that boundary riders when Wagner is digging it in short are actually in catching positions, but it spread the field, and the horizontal bat shots are de Kock’s game. The spread slip cordon annoyed more than a few purists too.
Once more like yesterday, the big partnership was not fully capitalised on. There was some entertaining hitting, but there was the feeling that batsmen got themselves out.
Then came the final partnership, which was also a bit curious. It was the second highest partnership of the innings, more than doubled the lead, and they get the chance to add to it tomorrow. But it did remove the opportunity for the South African quicks to have a go at the openers in a short spell.
Those two wickets that fell at the end of yesterday’s play turned out to be pretty handy.
It’s a strange test. The two most successful bowlers have been Duminy and de Grandhomme.
Some unusual things have happened in the second half of tests at the Basin in recent years too.