Rain plays spoilsport; England firmly placed at stumps on Day 3
Domineering batting displays from Nat Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone helped England to extend their overnight lead to 133 runs before Issy Wong’s late strikes left South Africa reeling at 55 for the loss of three wickets at stumps on day three of the ongoing Taunton Test. Skipper Heather Knight declared at the score of 417/8 before asking her bowlers to have a crack at South Africa on a rain-marred day that only witnessed 45.1 overs of play.
The dismissal of Alice Davidson-Richards was a faint silver lining that lifted South Africa’s spirits late on day two. But they failed to cash in the momentum early on day three as floodgates opened and Nat Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone piled on the pain for South Africa.
Sciver continued her merry ways and picked up from where she had left on day two. She drove her first delivery of the day down the ground to kickstart the proceedings for the hosts in a sublime manner.
England made their intentions clear soon with both Ecclestone and Sciver latching on to every scoring opportunity presented to them. Bosch created a caught and bowled opportunity on her own bowling in the 113th over but couldn’t grab it and was in utter disbelief herself. Ecclestone’s shot burst through her hands and it came while she was still completing her follow-through.
The duo of Sciver and Ecclestone was unrelenting in its batting approach and took the South African bowlers to the cleaners in pursuit of a gigantic first-innings lead.
They added 86-run together in just 117 deliveries and jolted South Africa’s hopes of making an early comeback on day three. The carnage put Knight’s team in the driver’s seat as their lead swelled above a hundred.
South Africa finally broke the partnership by dismissing Ecclestone in the 120th over of England’s innings and a run-out four balls later saw them declare the innings with a considerable lead. Sciver remained unbeaten on 169 and notched up the fourth-highest individual score in Test cricket by an England cricketer.
The Proteas got off to a poor start as Cross claimed Andrie Steyn again. Cross pitched one up to Steyn (who was still batting from her crease) to get her driving and she (Steyn) ended up nicking it straight to Sciver, who made no mistake in pouching it safely.
It started hosing down moments after Steyn’s dismissal and forced the two on-field umpires – Sue Redfern and Anna Harris to call for an early lunch. Play started after the interruption and Lara Goodall and Laura Wolvaardt played sensibly to negotiate the new ball before rain came back to halt the proceedings again and Tea was taken.
The clouds opened up heavily and it looked like that was going to be it for the day but the rain Gods showed mercy and the players made their back into the middle yet again. But there was a clear difference in the body language of both teams. While England players were all pumped up looking to make further inroads, the South African duo of Wolvaardt and Goodall was reluctant.
Play got underway in damp conditions with a dark cloud cover lingering over the ground and saw South Africa lose both their set batters in Wolvaardt and Goodall as Wong reigned supreme.
While Goodall’s was a classic case of strangle down the leg side, Wolvaardt on the other hand played a nothing shot and was caught at gully by a watchful Sciver. In order to protect their other frontline batters, South Africa sent Tumi Sekhukhune in as nightwatcher and she alongside skipper Suné Luus safely prevented any further damage to end the day.
South Africa 2nd innings 55/3 in 25 overs (Lara Goodall 26; Issy Wong 2/8) vs England; South Africa trail by 78 runs
England 1st innings 417/8 in 120 overs (Nat Sciver 169*, Alice Davidson-Richards 107; Anneke Bosch 3/77)