As Zak Crawley timed and Alex Lees thudded their way to 97 for no loss, charging towards a series-winning target of 130 like revellers chasing a night bus, there was sense we were getting the ending we deserved. Here were two players, limited in their own ways but ever-willing, who haven't quite found their comfort zone but, as they did in the chase against India at Edgbaston earlier this summer, embraced the fact comfort was not their thing and eased those closest to them.
It felt emblematic of this absurd three-match Test series, right down to the fact 33 were needed when they went off for bad light to give us another day of it all. It's been an awkward, low-quality affair, but entertaining in bursts, providing this three-Test series with a winner inside just nine days. The good kind of bad, like sniffing a permanent marker, battered haggis, Vanilla Sky or "London Bridge" by Fergie.
Indeed day four of this third Test as a whole felt like a microcosm of what has been: an absurd tangle of good bowling spells in favourable conditions and some shambolic batting on both sides. England kicked off losing the final three wickets of their first innings in the space of 16 balls, before all 10 in South Africa's second effort fell in 56.2 overs. And while on the one hand you could commend the hosts for not adding to that tally, it's worth remembering Lees was dropped off the very first ball of the chase and was almost run out off the eighth. Crawley, immaculate otherwise, was dropped at midwicket on 51, then edged between wicketkeeper and first slip.
South Africa have managed just one half-century between them, to England's two centuries (Ben Stokes and Ben Foakes) and three fifties (both from Ollie Pope before Crawley's effort) at the time of writing. Marco Jansen, who inexplicably missed the second Test, has the highest batting average for the Proteas at 27.33, which is more than twice as high as Joe Root's - yes him - a dismal 11.50 from four innings. England as a whole only had four averages above 20 (Foakes 44.33, Pope 42.00, Stokes 37.25 and Jonny Bairstow 22.33) coming into this final innings. Lees and Crawley could join them if they finish the job on Monday.
Given some of the shots we've seen this summer - good, bad and plenty ugly - it is clear the messaging from Stokes and the reinforcement from Brendon McCullum has encouraged free-wheeling and, ultimately, to embrace a little immaturity. While the latter has understandably irked traditionalists, perhaps they might find comfort in the fact that rarely has England's bowling been as mature and responsible as it is right now. And it was because of their work after lunch that Monday's return will be a short and sweet finale after a rewarding summer of graft.
All 10 South Africa dismissals on Sunday came within 111 runs, but the 58 that came first appropriately sets the scene. It took Dean Elgar and Sarel Erwee just 8.5 overs to wipe off a first innings deficit of 40, with gorgeous sunshine illuminating some risk-free strokeplay and guides through the slips, aided by some manageable lengths. CricViz recorded that 33% of England's deliveries were fuller than 6m from the stumps in the first innings, yet only 19% were in that range in the first 11 overs of the second.
By lunch, the only victim was Erwee, finally brought uncomfortably forward by Stokes' third delivery of the innings (and the match). South Africa went into the break with a lead of 30, nine wickets in hand and plenty more of the game on their plates than they had 24 hours ago.
And then came the shift. Suddenly, everything was a little tighter. Those loose deliveries that gave the openers and No. 3 Keegan Petersen enough satisfaction to tick along were nowhere to be seen. "After lunch we had real intent," Stuart Broad said. It showed.
Everything seemed a little bit smarter, too, and all without the ball in hand that little more switched on. Broad dug deep to create some drama to such an extent that Elgar didn't think to review an lbw against him that was sliding down. Even to the batter, it just felt right. Pope took a sharp catch to his left at fourth slip to remove Petersen. Suddenly, the runs stopped - typified by Khaya Zondo taking 23 deliveries to get off the mark - as England sped the game up for their own ends.
Wiaan Mulder, survival on his mind for his 69 minutes at the crease, was undone with extra bounce from his 52nd and final delivery, as Ollie Robinson registered his first of the innings and 50 dismissals in just his 11th Test. No. 51 came when a little less bounce did for Zondo, who swayed into a leg-before dismissal.
Then of course, there was the obligatory monster spell from Stokes, with two wickets in 11 overs split over tea. The first took them to the interval - bowling Marco Jansen an over after he had him caught (Pope again) off a no-ball - the second arriving two deliveries after the break when he completed his over with Kagiso Rabada's tame guide to Harry Brook in the cordon.
With that, England had taken back control Broad and James Anderson reclaimed it beyond doubt with the final dismissal to leave South Africa bereft and all out on 169.
"That was the best we've bowled as a unit all summer," Broad said, 3 for 45 in his back pocket that not only has him as the leading wicket-taker in the series (14) and the summer (27) but has also moved him three above Glenn McGrath and into fifth on the all-time list with 566 dismissals.
Perhaps Broad, at 36, might embody all that is working in the field under Stokes and McCullum. It begins, in some ways, with the parking of any egos and the desire to do right by the team which he embraced when giving up the new ball to Robinson. And it extends with the way he feels rejuvenated by the field settings which are almost exclusively catchers rather than sweepers. As chaotic as the batting can seem, the bowling plans are akin to blinking contests. England have won most of them this summer.
"Baz's mindset is you take the scoreboard completely out of the equation at all times so not worrying about economy rate, your mindset is always how am I getting wickets in this over? Which sounds quite a basic obvious thing, but I've played under a lot of really good captains who were very much all about economy rates.
"So Straussy's [Andrew Strauss] number one rule was you had to go at under three an over to build pressure and create pressure and wickets in that way. And that worked and we were really successful doing that. But people like Steven Finn probably didn't play as much Test cricket as they could have done because of that philosophy, whereas this mindset is every over you start, 'How are you getting the batter out what's your way of getting a wicket', so that's been quite refreshing."
The rejuvenation in Broad's voice is clear. Though he is expected to miss the Pakistan series ahead of the birth of his first child, he seems pretty certain he will carry on through to the Ashes next summer. The credit, he believes, should go to the two in charge. It is "fresh", "invigorating" and "sort of no consequences, trying to play on the front foot the whole time". Everything we identify Broad with, basically.
A music journalist once wrote the difference between Busted and Blink 182 was that one were a group of teenagers pretending to be musicians and the other was a group of musicians pretending to be teenagers. You don't need to squint too hard at the names on the batting cards of England and South Africa to figure out which of these line-ups should know better and which are still trying to find out.
But there can be no doubt ahead of a final dash to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's for a sixth Test win of the summer that the reason England's pop-punk brand of cricket has been so successful is the exemplary fundamentals and educated approach of their bowlers. A group of right-armers once criticised for being too samey are now one of the same: relentless, incisive and enjoying their cricket like never before.