Dominic Bess has won praise from the players of both sides after providing a crucial contribution on the second day in Cape Town.
While the figures – 1-62 from 27 overs – may not look outstanding, Bess’s control allowed England’s seamers to rotate throughout the day. With one end is offering bowlers significant amount of assistance from a crack just outside the right-hander’s off-stump, Bess was required to bowl from the end offering the bowlers little.
That he was able to do so allowed his captain, Joe Root, to keep his seamers relatively fresh and ensured the South Africa batsmen were never able to score freely. For a man who had not played a match since September and was only called into the squad as sickness cover it was, in the words of Sam Curran, an “outstanding” effort.
“Bessy did an amazing job for us the whole day,” Curran said. “He was the biggest one in our line-up. He held it all together and helped us big lads come in from the top end where there’s a bit more movement.
“He was outstanding. It’s pretty obvious that none of the seamers have managed to get as much movement from the end where he was bowling and he did the same job Keshav Maharaj managed for South Africa.”
The wicket he claimed was significant too. Dean Elgar had batted for more than four hours and looked as comfortable as anyone in the game. But, he holed out to mid-off in trying to disrupt England’s plans by hitting Bess out of the attack. It triggered a collapse of sorts; South Africa losing five wickets for 58 runs.
“I played with him at Somerset a couple of years ago,” Elgar said. “And he was a good bowler then. Playing domestic cricket at home has given him more confidence. He bowled well. He changed his pace nicely. He’s playing for England; he can’t be that bad!”
Bess’s control was, in Curran’s view, a key difference between England’s performance here and in Centurion. While in the first Test, Quinton de Kock was able to speed the game away from England, here they maintained pressure for much of the day and claimed five wickets in the final session to take the initiative. On a surface that will probably deteriorate, any first innings lead could prove crucial.
“In Centurion we let de Kock get away and his innings probably changed the game,” Curran said. “But here none of the bowlers went for more than three-an-over [Ben Stokes actually went for 3.77] so it was a great day as a group.
“There are great signs for us. Hopefully the sun gets on the wicket again tomorrow (Sunday) and the cracks starts to open. Then maybe it will go up and down a little bit. But we don’t want to look too far ahead. We have to get those last couple of wickets and then try and bat really well.”