England spent more than 200 overs in the field for just the second time this century as the second Test against South Africa was set for a high-scoring draw in Cape Town.
There was brief hope that England might push for victory when they claimed three quick wickets after lunch as they finally saw the back of Proteas skipper Hashim Amla after almost 12 hours at the crease.
Amla’s fourth Test double-century had slowly sucked the ambition from Alastair Cook’s men but a relative clatter of wickets, when the Proteas lost three for 10, briefly revived hope.
An energy-sapped attack could muster just one more wicket, however, as Temba Bavuma registered an emotional maiden Test century – he grew up in the Lamba township outside cape Town – and combined with debutant Chris Morris in a record eighth-wicket stand of 167 runs.
That allowed Amla to declare late in the day, two runs adrift of England’s first-innings 629 for six, and have a late crack at the tourists’ weary openers.
Cook and Alex Hales were up to the task as they saw off six overs to reach stumps at 16 without loss.
With a day to go England’s bowlers will no doubt prescribe a full day’s batting tomorrow after they shared a total of 211 overs in the field on a batsman-friendly Newlands wicket.
Like yesterday England’s attack was disciplined but again dropped catches frustrated them with four presentable opportunities going down today.
That was perhaps a symptom of tired minds as England finished the day having spent more than 200 overs in the field for the first time since Brian Lara scored an unbeaten 400 in Antigua just over a decade ago.
There have been no such fireworks from the South Africa batsmen as, led by their skipper, they have looked primarily to suck the life out of the game after Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow’s record-breaking antics on day two.
It had needed something significant from South Africa after that record-breaking assault and Amla provided it in an innings to reaffirm his position as leader.
The 32-year-old has been under pressure before, and during, this match but put all the off-field chatter to one side over the course of five full sessions of batting which have almost certainly ensured his team can still win the series heading to Johannesburg next week.
It took a good Stuart Broad delivery to finally remove Amla from his trench when he was bowled defending at a delivery that cut back just enough to catch his inside-edge and then off stump.
That prompted a mini collapse of three for 10 in a four-over period as England’s old faithful pairing of Broad and Anderson found life in the third new ball.
Anderson struck the over after Broad when he angled across Faf du Plessis from around the wicket and caught a edge that flew to Ben Stokes.
Suddenly there was tension in the middle and it showed in Quinton de Kock’s ill-advised swipe at Broad which picked out Anderson at square-leg.
The progress was checked by Bavuma, playing his seventh Test, and first-gamer Morris as they broke an 87-year record for the highest South Africa eighth-wicket stand against England.
Both players profited from dropped chances but Bavuma still deserved his moment as he unveiled a particular liking to the short ball.
His century was brought up with a nick to the third-man rope off Finn and was met to with rousing applause from the Newlands crowd.
Soon after Amla called his batsmen in but any hope they might snare a late wicket to cap their day was prevented by Cook and Hales.