Vince, Trott give Lions slender lead
England Lions 260 and 212 for 4 (Vince 61*, Trott 53) lead South Africa A 421 by 51 runs
An absorbing day's cricket, the best in this short series, was vividly interrupted by the kind of lightning and thunder more often associated with matches on the High Veldt. Bloemfontein falls into the same summer rain belt and a restart was not possible for almost two hours. Just as well for England Lions, who, 161 runs behind on first innings, had lost three second innings wickets and both Jonathan Trott and James Vince had been dropped. Their lead is far from substantial.
As it was, Trott went not long after the resumption. He did reach a half-century, including seven fours, before Dane Piedt had him leg before pushing forward with one that did not turn. The offspinner declared it to be his slider. Vince remained until the premature close, six of the remaining 19 overs still to be bowled. His cover driving, as ever, was the salient feature in his unbeaten 61 with 11 fours, but he will need to remain at the crease for a while longer.
Before the interlude on this fast-drying ground, several thousand feet above sea level, the Lions lost their first three wickets for 81. Had Vince not been dropped when on four by Rudi Second, who has not excelled in this series behind the stumps, and Trott not been badly missed at gully by Stiaan van Zyl - a sitter, this, in any form of cricket, but especially at this level - and the thunderstorm not arrived, the final day's play might well not have been needed. The expression on the face of the bowler, Rory Kleinveldt, a friend of Trott's from their days in schools cricket, said it all.
A wicket fell in the first over of the innings. Kleinveldt, who has the kind of backside advocated for fast bowling by F.S. Trueman and who will surely take wickets for Northamptonshire when the ball is nibbling around in springtime, accounted for Sam Robson, who played on. Adam Lyth, partnered now by his Yorkshire compatriot Alex Lees, square cut Chris Morris uppishly for four and then drove Kleinveldt delightfully to the long-off boundary.
Lees, too, was soon excelling, leaning into a square cover drive off Kleinveldt, who switched ends. Stay in for an hour on this pitch and batting is that much more straightforward. But what occurred was that Lyth, that fine driver through the cover ring, attempted to put away a ball of full length from Kagiso Rabada and edged to a widish slip: 78 for 2. Lees followed three runs later, bowled by a slower ball from the same bowler that he simply did not sight.
Trott, fiddling interminably with the buckles of his pads, his concentration disrupted by Justin Ontong's field changes, got off the mark and off a pair with his trademark flick through midwicket off Rabada. Then, facing Morris from Loch Logan End, he moved across his stumps, instinctively swiped at an inswinger and was almost caught at leg slip, as he had been in the first innings. Trott evidently is not changing his game - it has, after all, brought him considerable success. That same over, Morris, this time pitching shorter, was swung away for four.
Then came van Zyl's abject miss, a slower ball from Kleinveldt almost steered towards him. The fielder then found himself in the attack, but to no avail: Vince promptly drove his medium pace to the cover boundary. At tea, the Lions had a lead of 10 runs. Next came lightning so close to the ground and so spectacular that the umpires and players were off the field before it had begun to rain.
In the morning, South Africa A lost their remaining three wickets for 32 runs in nine overs. Kleinveldt pulled Boyd Rankin for four, then swished at the next ball and was caught behind. Rabada was also taken by Jonny Bairstow, trying to leave alone one from Liam Plunkett and, three balls later, Piedt pushed tentatively forward at the same bowler and lost his off stump. It was a telling lead. South Africa A will also benefit through play beginning at 10 a.m. on the final day in an attempt to make up for lost time.