Bullish all-rounder Moeen Ali has rubbished suggestions from South Africa batsman Dean Elgar that the tourists have exposed weaknesses in the England batting line-up as they press for victory in the second Investec Test.
England will have to make Test history and chase down a mammoth 474, a record for a fourth-innings chase, if they are to beat South Africa after the Proteas turned the screw on day three at Trent Bridge and declared their second innings on 343-9.
Experienced performer Hashim Amla, Elgar and skipper Faf du Plessis all notched half-centuries, while England survived four nervy overs before the close for the loss of no wicket.
South Africa have six sessions to claim victory and level the four-Test series at 1-1. Elgar, who captained South Africa during the first Test in the absence of Du Plessis, insists his side are confident of exploiting England’s flaws.
“I definitely think we have maybe opened up a few cracks within their side at the moment which is brilliant for us looking ahead to the rest of the series,” said Elgar. “They rely heavily on their experienced batsmen to score runs, which allows the middle order and lower order to play freely.
“You saw it in England’s first innings [when they were dismissed for 205]. We got a few guys out cheaply and it worked in our favour because the lower and middle order couldn’t express themselves the way they wanted to.”
Moeen, however, was not prepared to entertain Elgar. He said: “I don’t think any cracks have opened up. He can say what he wants. “We have to bat two days. You can’t rule it out at all with our batting line-up and the players that we have. I wouldn’t put it past us. We’ve got players who believe we can do that.”
Moeen was the pick of the England bowlers with 4-78, while fellow all-rounder Ben Stokes claimed 2-34, although the runs of Amla, Elgar and Du Plessis moved South Africa into a position of extreme strength.
Their declaration forced England into a test of survival for four overs, which almost started disastrously as former skipper Alastair Cook was given out lbw first ball, only for him to overturn the decision on appeal.