England assistant coach Paul Farbrace insists his side will live to regret a flurry of dropped catches as South Africa ensured the second Test is all but certain to end in stalemate after a batting masterclass on day four yesterday.
Skipper Hashim Amla finally departed for 201 after an innings spanning close to 12 hours, while Temba Bavuma became the first black African to score a Test century for the Proteas, as Faf du Plessis and debutant Chris Morris struck 86 and 69 respectively.
South Africa eventually declared on 627-7, two runs shy of England’s mammoth tally, while captain Alastair Cook and fellow opener Alex Hales navigated a potentially difficult six overs as England closed on 16-0.
But England squandered numerous chances to make inroads into South Africa’s stubborn batting line-up, flooring as many as eight catching opportunities during the course of the innings.
“I think we’ve done pretty well but we’re disappointed that we’ve missed chances. That’s the thing we’re going to look back on in this game and rue those chances that we have missed,” said Farbrace.
“It was probably not what we expected. We’ve talked a lot about being disciplined with our lines and lengths. We’ve created chances and that’s the real bonus out of the day.
“We’ve continued to create chances, which is fantastic. Our bowlers have worked incredibly hard. To be in the field for over 200 overs, I don’t care how fit and strong you are, that takes a lot of effort and energy and it takes a lot out of the body.”
It was the first time since Brian Lara’s heroics in scoring 400 not out for the West Indies in Antigua in 2004 that England have fielded for more than 200 overs, although the tourists more than contributed to that marathon stint.
Amla had been dropped on 76 and 120 on Monday, while Du Plessis, Bavuma, who finished unbeaten on 102, and Morris were all given additional lives as a result of errant fielding yesterday.
The draw would now appear the most likely outcome on such a benign surface, a result which would see England retain a 1-0 lead with Tests in Johannesburg and Centurion to come.