Sciver and Davidson-Richards put England in control against South Africa

A maiden Test century from Nat Sciver, and an equally impressive hundred from Alice Davidson-Richards on Test debut, helped England post 328 for six on day two, leading South Africa by 44 runs, to place the hosts in a commanding position with two days left to play.

It was a remarkable recovery by England, who had found themselves 121 for five midway through the afternoon session, after seamer Anneke Bosch bagged three for 59. At that point the No 7, Davidson-Richards, appeared to have been sent out with clear instructions to batten down the hatches, progressing slowly and painfully to nine from 42 balls.

Two and a half hours later, she and Sciver had put on a record 207-run partnership for the sixth wicket – not just preventing a rout, but completely turning the tables on South Africa, as the evening session unfolded into all-out attack. Sciver, who has five ODI hundreds, is no stranger to taking apart bowling attacks; but Davidson-Richards has not played a match for England since April 2018 and two weeks ago might justifiably have thought her international career was over. Watching her pepper the South African attack for boundaries across the evening session was therefore sheer delight.

“I’ve always had a deep-rooted faith in how good I could be, and it was just knowing how to get there,” Davidson-Richards said. “Everything that’s happened before has allowed me to get to here and be the player I am now and the person I am now.

“Bowlers are going to bowl good balls, so it was about riding that bit out and trusting the process to get there towards the end.”

She described reaching three figures as “bloody brilliant”, while Sciver said her own century ranked as one of her best moments in international cricket: “For it to be in a Test match is really special. It’s a format that we don’t get to play much of, but one that I love, so I’m really happy.”

Even the introduction of the new ball, handed immediately to Marizanne Kapp, could not stem the flow: Kapp had been expected to wreak havoc with the Dukes but went wicketless across the day, while South Africa badly missed experienced bowlers Ayabonga Khaka and Shabnim Ismail, both injured.

Davidson-Richards was dismissed on the verge of stumps, caught at backward point wafting at a wide one, but Sciver – who remains unbeaten on 119 – said England fully intend to continue batting on Wednesday. “We want to try and get the biggest lead we can. I’m excited to get back out there in the morning,” she said.

South Africa enjoyed a successful morning session, after Bosch removed openers Tammy Beaumont (28) and Emma Lamb (38) with two beautiful balls which moved late, finally extracting some life from the Dukes ball after 80 minutes of little threat, breaking England’s 65-run opening stand in the process.

England’s woes continued after lunch, with Bosch tempting Sophia Dunkley into nicking to slip, while spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba then secured her maiden Test wicket, bowling Amy Jones for a duck with a ball that barely turned.

In between England captain Heather Knight, who made an unbeaten 168 in her most recent Test innings at Canberra in January, was left fuming after a moment’s hesitation, responding to the call from Sciver, saw her run out despite a full-stretch dive to try to save herself. After the way Sciver batted, though, all is surely forgiven.