Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Dom Bess takes five wickets but weather and Quinton de Kock threaten to halt England victory march in South Africa

Slice of history as 22-year-old becomes youngest English spinner to take an overseas five-for to put tourists in charge of third Test

Dom Bess grabbed himself a slice of history with a maiden five-wicket haul in Port Elizabeth before a lengthy rain delay and three dropped catches from Ben Stokes halted England's victory push in the third Test against South Africa.

Bess, aged 22 and 180 days, became the youngest English spinner to take an overseas five-for during a stirring third morning that seemed to leave the Proteas hanging by a thread, 386 behind on 113-5.

He removed Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen before rain stopped proceedings.

Showers then delayed play for more than three hours through the middle of the day and England struck just once more in an extended evening session as South Africa closed on 208-6, 92 away from avoiding the follow-on.

Bess closed with figures of 5-51, an incredible return for a player who spends much of his county career as understudy to Jack Leach and was a late call-up to the tour as illness cover for his Somerset team-mate.

"It was awesome," said Bess. "I love bowling so for me to have that responsibility and to back it up is something for me that is very important.

"It gives me confidence to get that under my belt. There are four more [wickets] out there. I am hunting for them.

"I certainly didn't [think I would be here a few weeks ago]. It is funny how cricket comes around. I thought I would have a nice Christmas at home with the family.

"It is unfortunate for Leachy but that is how opportunities come. Hopefully it is the start of something longer."

Stokes was the man to finally see off the stoic nightwatchman Anrich Nortje, who lasted 136 balls, but a hat-trick of uncharacteristic spills at slip spared the dangerous Quinton de Kock on 30, 56 and 63.

But De Kock played some characteristically entertaining strokes to provide some respite for the home fans after a relentless pounding from England over the first two days. He finished unbeaten on 63 from 134 balls, including nine fours.

In spite of the poor weather forecast for the next two days, England remain well-placed to take a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.

Following Ollie Pope's century on the second day, it was the second breakthrough performance by a 22-year-old for England. Bess had taken a total of five wickets in his previous three Tests at a cost of 48 runs each.

South Africa batsman Quinton de Kock is dropped at slip by Ben Stokes. Getty
South Africa batsman Quinton de Kock is dropped at slip by Ben Stokes. Getty

He was the first England spin bowler to take the first five wickets in an innings since Derek Underwood claimed the first seven against Australia in Adelaide in 1974/75.

Pope aided his fellow young team-mate by taking three catches off Bess's bowling, two at short leg and one at silly point.

Stokes was not brought into the attack until the 61st over. He claimed Nortje's wicket with his tenth delivery before his succession of dropped chances.

The first two, when de Kock was on 30 and 56, were off Root with the third in the penultimate over came off Joe Denly's leg-spin.

Bess struck in the fourth over of the day when Dean Elgar was caught for 35 off bat and pad at silly point by Pope.

Proteas' captain Faf du Plessis used his feet to off-drive fours off the third and fourth balls he faced from Bess, who switched from round the wicket to over the wicket and two balls later had Du Plessis caught by Pope at short leg, again off bat and pad.

Rassie van der Dussen made 24 before chopping an attempted cut off Bess into his stumps, one over after hitting 11 runs off the spinner.

"Seeing how good Stokesy was in Cape Town," said Bess. "It was just one of those days. It is good we were creating chances.

"As long as we control the rate, get one of those two we are right in it. Hopefully we can enforce the follow-on."

Updated: January 18, 2020 09:41 PM

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