Historic Bavuma ton helps SA achieve parity
England 629 for 6 dec and 16 for 0 (Cook 8*, Hales 5) lead South Africa 627 for 7 dec (Amla 201, Bavuma 102*, de Villiers 88, du Plessis 86, Morris 69) by 18 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In the troubled transformation of South Africa cricket Temba Bavuma inspired heady hopes of a bright and contented future with a zestful maiden Test hundred which brought a slumbering Cape Town Test sparking into life. A run-glut Test or not, the squeals of delight that greeted his breakthrough innings lit up Newlands. Temba Bavuma: depicted as a quota cricketer no longer.
Twenty-four years after South Africa's readmission to international cricket following the dismantling of apartheid, Bavuma became the first black African to hit a Test hundred for South Africa. It was a momentous moment.
Bavuma had made only one half-century in seven Tests and most mentions of his name before the Test had encouraged the mistaken belief that his first name was Drop. But he danced around Newlands like a summer breeze, his bright-as-a-button innings refreshing onlookers who were beginning to tire of runs that in this Test had become as undervalued as the South African rand.
Bavuma's unbeaten 102, from 148 balls, replete with enterprising cuts and pulls, was a cheery topping on Hashim Amla's slow-cooked special - the fourth double-century of his Test career. When Bavuma reached his hundred with a thick edge off Steven Finn and Amla pulled the plug soon afterwards, South Africa had batted for 211 overs and had cut the deficit to two runs. For the first time in South Africa both sides had made more than 600 on first innings.
England reached 16 without loss by the close, and probably consigned the Test to oblivion in the process, but both batsmen had alarming brushes with short leg and Cook left a ball that missed off stump by a whisker. Two down would have caused the odd sleepless night.
Had that been so, England would have only themselves to blame. Pristine pitch or not, they dropped nine catches in the innings: six on the fourth day. Many, it must be noted, were immensely difficult. It was also their ninth day of Test cricket in 11, the heat was searing, and as the overs mounted, they were understandably flagging. The law of averages, though, meant that some should have stuck.
The one that will be most dwelt upon - however cruelly it may seem - will be Jonny Bairstow's drop of Bavuma on 77, partly because Bairstow's ponderous footwork threatens his future as a Test keeper, partly because Broad kicked the pitch in frustration, so bringing a huge lump out of it and attracting an unofficial warning from umpire Aleem Dar, one which he took gracelessly. It was the only time the pitch has shown signs of wear.
When Amla's steadfast resistance finally expired in the fourth over after lunch, his 201 represented the third-longest Test innings in South Africa, in terms of ball faced. Over nearly 12 hours he had glued together South African resolve, an understated captain responding indefatigably in a time of need. His concentration was admirable, his defensive technique impeccable, but in cricket when the situation is dead the game is dead and as long as Amla remained at the crease there seemed no chance of a positive result.
Amla's was one of three wickets to fall on the fourth afternoon as the third new ball brought England momentary release - Faf du Plessis and Quinton du Kock also dismissed within the space of 22 balls. Amla was the first of them, undone by Broad who coaxed just enough movement out of a placid surface to bowl him off an inside edge. Only Gary Kirsten and Michael Atherton had faced more deliveries in a Test in South Africa than his 477.
Du Plessis, 81 not out at lunch, missed out on a hundred that he seemed to have been heading inexorably towards, James Anderson finding the edge from around the wicket and Ben Stokes retrieving an alert, low catch at third slip. There were good plans, too, for de Kock, who was given a strong leg-side field and a surfeit of short balls and who mis-hooked to square leg.
With South Africa still 180 behind, at 449 for 6, a positive result could not entirely be discounted - not by computer programmers anyway. England cranked up the aggression for an hour, indulging in more than a few verbals along the way and Anderson knowingly collected a second warning for running on the pitch. Go for broke and see what happens was the obvious message.
Bavuma, jockey-sized in the style of James Taylor, stood up for the little man, later in his innings also dealing well with England's attempts to stifle him with 7-2 off-side fields. He found a redoubtable ally in Chris Morris, who made 69 on Test debut in a stand of 167 before Joe Root, who had dropped several in the slips, held on at short extra.
England had little glimpses of opportunity in the morning, most glaringly when Amla miscued Moeen down the ground on 197 and was fortunate that the ball dropped safely between the two straight fielders. A ball later, he soft-shoe shuffled a single through mid-on for his 200.
Du Plessis' most anxious moment came when he edged a full-length ball from Moeen past Anderson at slip. For the second time in the innings, the ball flew too rapidly past Anderson who was hunting an edge from a defensive push - a theory which, although events conspired against it, did possess a certain amount of logic. Root, helmeted because he was so unnaturally close, was to make the same miscalculation later when Morris edged Broad.
This Test has passed through recognisable phases. It began with excitement, as Stokes and Bairstow batted at an astounding rate on a flat surface nevertheless offering decent pace and bounce. It became a challenge of concentration as Amla stiffened South African sinews in the face of England's 629 for 6. And, on the fourth day, with that pace and bounce a distant memory, as long as Amla remained it became a process primarily of repetition, an endurance test for all but the most unyielding connoisseur.
Old timers wallowed in memories of big scores of days gone by, England fans crept away to climb Table Mountain and there was a terrible temptation to switch TV channels and watch the Big Bash pack them in again in Adelaide. Even the Indian schoolboy who has scored 1009 not out in Mumbai must have been under greater threat.
This was becoming the Test with no reason to live. Then came Bavuma to bring it alive once more.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps