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Through their reluctance to run the risk of defeat by attempting a fourth innings task which required fast scoring, South Africa refused a chance of victory which might not have been beyond the scope of men more capable of freedom. On a pitch which played at least as well as at any time in the match, they made no effort to get the 376 in four hours and a half with which Mann's declaration challenged them.
As a result of the batting supremacy on the same ground in the Second Test the ground staff made laudable efforts to prepare a pitch more helpful to bowlers. Certainly on the first day the green turf and heavy atmosphere gave bowlers slight assistance but thereafter there was little excuse for batting failures.
Against accurate and lively pace bowling by McCarthy and Tuckett, England, who won the toss in the third consecutive Test, did well to recover so completely from the early loss of Hutton. This setback was retrieved by a stand of 120 between Washbrook and Crapp. Compton helped Washbrook in another brisk partnership before McCarthy got rid of both with the new ball. Washbrook was caught at long leg trying to repeat the hook stroke off a bouncer which brought him six runs the previous over from McCarthy.
When five wickets were down for 213, South Africa must have been eminently satisfied, but the left-hander Watkins found some good partners among the remaining batsmen. Watkins gave a chance to backward square-leg when 64 but otherwise he batted grandly, making his first Test century. He invested his off-drives with much power and scored freely also with hooks and pulls. His strokes contained fifteen 4's. Tuckett, given the new ball for the first time in the series, combined length and direction and was South Africa's most impressive bowler, but Markham, a young leg-break bowler, did not enjoy his Test debut. His length suffered in the effort to produce big spin before he had settled down to the Test atmosphere.
South Africa's prospects of a large total slumped when Mitchell gave a catch at the wicket in the first over and Viljoen was run out at the same total. Another disastrous misunderstanding over running cost E. Rowan his wicket at 19, so that once again Wade and Nourse faced heavy responsibility. Wade stayed while 106 were added for the fourth wicket but before the close Nourse lost three more partners so that with three wickets left South Africa finished the second day needing 69 to avoid the danger of a follow-on.
Mainly through Nourse, who played one of his finest innings against a keen and purposeful attack, England were forced to bat again, but Nourse caused surprise by a declaration which left England leading by 122. Griffith, whose choice as wicket-keeper, broke a long sequence by Evans which began in Australia two years before, kept wicket cleanly, took three catches smartly, and could not be blamed for missing a most difficult chance of stumping Nourse.
Any slight hopes Nourse may have entertained of England collapsing vanished through the masterful Hutton whose off and cover-drives were a model of technical attainment. Washbrook shared in an opening stand of 77, but few batsmen were happy against A. Rowan's off-breaks. In an unbroken spell of three hours and a half Rowan rarely sent down a loose ball. For such a long period his was the finest piece of bowling during the Tests.
South Africa made no attempt to go for runs rapidly after Mann's declaration. Mitchell's dismissal at 23 did not seem justification for the slow batting of Viljoen and E. Rowan who took two hours, twenty minutes in adding 113. On his recall to the team, E. Rowan repeated his batting success on the same ground in the Second Test.