CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa survived unscathed to post 46 without loss in search of a record 438 for victory at tea on day four of the intriguing second test against England on Monday.
England set the stiff target at Newlands after declaring their second innings on 391 for eight just after lunch, with opener Dom Sibley unbeaten on a patient maiden test century of 133 not out to go with an explosive 72 from Ben Stokes.
Openers Pieter Malan (23 not out) and Dean Elgar (21 not out) will resume after the break for the home side on a wicket that is taking turn, but offering very little for the seamers having noticeably flattened out in the last two days.
South Africa famously scored 438 to beast Australia in a one-day international at the Wanderers in 2006, a game that lives in legend in the country and in which current coach Mark Boucher hit the winning runs.
But this would represent an even bigger achievement for a side that has lost many of its batting greats to retirement in recent years.
Debutant Malan and Elgar made it to tea with few alarms though and that could yet encourage a shot at the winning total with four sessions remaining.
The previous highest success run chase in tests was 418 by West Indies against Australia in 2003.
Sibley’s previous highest test score going into his fourth match was 29, but he has proven his ability to bat long, one of the key characteristics that drew the English selectors to his talent.
His hundred was met by an almighty roar from the sizeable travelling English support, even if it took him 269 balls to get there.
Stokes was providing plenty of entertainment at the other end as he took on the task of providing the quick runs England wanted to build a big enough lead and still have enough time to bowl South Africa out a second time.
He smashed seven fours and three sixes in a 47-ball innings of 72, before being caught at mid-on by Rassie van der Dussen off spinner Keshav Maharaj.
His blitz propelled England to 157 runs in 27 overs in the morning session and crucially sped up the game in their pursuit of victory.
South Africa won the first test of the four-match series by 107 runs in Pretoria.