England remain strong favourites to win the fourth Investec Test after Moeen Ali’s late strokeplay arrested their second-innings slide.
Even as doubts multiplied over future batting personnel after a succession of incumbents fluffed their lines in tough conditions on day three at Old Trafford, England recovered from a faltering 153 for seven to 224 for eight – ensuring a ground-record target for South Africa, with a lead of 360 in the bag by the time long-forecast rain brought an early close.
Moeen (67no) benefited from good fortune, when he was badly dropped at slip by Dean Elgar off Keshav Maharaj on 15, to hit seven fours and two sixes in a 49-ball half-century and revive England following a fine second spell from Duanne Olivier (three for 38).
Stat of the day
12 – Running total of Alastair Cook’s record-breaking number of Test dismissals to the admirable Morne Morkel.
Vacancy…but no applicants
Keaton Jennings may well not have another chance, in the short term at least, to restate his credentials as Cook’s latest opening partner. On the day he mustered only a scratchy 18, England’s apparent favoured replacement Haseeb Hameed was unable to record his first half-century of a deeply disappointing championship season so far with Lancashire. Other contenders are hard to spot too, as England contemplate the 12th new partner for Cook since Andrew Strauss’ retirement five years ago.
Tweet of the dayLancashire break the news, on their official account, that Jennings’ stalking horse has fallen at the first down at the Ageas Bowl.
Who would have thought it?
These two teams were touted pre-series for their seam-bowling strength, yet spin has played a highly significant part in the four matches so far. Moeen Ali’s 20 wickets to date are the most he has taken in any one series, and South Africa slow left-armer Keshav Maharaj is no slouch either with 17.
It should only be a matter of time before England complete a 3-1 series victory – although a four-day win would be handy, with a poor forecast on Tuesday offering hope of a stalemate if South Africa have the appetite for it.