England will need to complete a Test record fourth innings run chase of 474 if they are to avoid a series-levelling defeat at the hands of South Africa in the Second Investec Test at Trent Bridge.
The tourists started the day 205 runs ahead on 75-1 in their second innings having secured a 130-run first innings lead and batted almost all day, first under cloud and then later on in the sun, to advance to 343-9 declared.
It means Joe Root’s side, who closed on 1-0, will need to usurp the 418-7 the West Indies made against Australia at Antigua in May 2003 if they are to secure an unlikely victory.
One positive for the hosts is that the weather forecast, particularly tomorrow, is much better for the remainder of the Test and should make for easier batting conditions.
All-rounder Mooen Ali believes England can make history over the next two days and said: “We have got batsmen who can bat for a long time to bat through the six sessions and, if we get that far, we’ll be close to the total we need.
“Cooky (Alastair Cook) is very hard to get out once he gets in and hopefully we will see that tomorrow – in fact, all the top three can be very solid and bat for a very long time – and then we have Joe (Root) who is in very good form.
“We’re going to have a chat about our approach in the morning, but we are going to need a good foundation if we are going to bat through.
“We saw when the sun was out that it was quite nice to bat, while when it was overcast, the ball did quite a bit.
“Once South Africa got over the new ball, the way Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla played was quite comfortable, and it didn’t look like they were going to get out. They showed us the way to bat.”
England, who lead 1-0 in the series following their win at Lord’s last week, could have made an early breakthrough during Nottinghamshire paceman Stuart Broad’s first spell when Hashim Amla had added just two to his overnight 23.
Third umpire technology showed that the number three nicked behind, but Broad and Root failed to review, handing the relieved batsman a reprieve.
It proved costly as Amla and Elgar added 135 in 36.2 overs for the second wicket before the latter fell for 80, having hit 12 hours, when caught by James Anderson splicing a hook off Ben Stokes.
The very next over saw replacement Quinton de Kock edge Anderson through to Jonny Bairstow for 1, which gave England hope as South Africa went to lunch on 160-3.
However, the afternoon session largely brought more South African punishment as Amla shared 62 with his skipper Faf Du Plessis to take the total past 200.
He looked set for a hundred on the ground where he played as Nottinghamshire’s overseas professional in 2010 until he was given out lbw on review for 87 (14 fours, one six) when advancing down the pitch to Liam Dawson.
After tea, South Africa looked to up the scoring rate and Temba Bavuma holed out for 15 when trying to hit spinner Ali over the top, while Du Plessis was trapped lbw for 63 by Stokes.
Chris Morris and Keshav Maharaj also perished to Ali in attempting to clear the in-field as Gary Balance and Broad took excellent catches.
Vernon Philander hit two big sixes in an innings of 42 before Ali, who took 4-78, had him caught and bowled, which brought a Proteas declaration.
It left England to face a tricky four overs at the end of the day, during which an lbw decision against Alastair Cook from a Morkel delivery was overturned on review from the very first ball of the innings.
History is so often made at Trent Bridge. Will England make some more tomorrow?
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