The Somerset off-spinner, who was a late addition to the squad to cover for illness, took three wickets for 29 runs in 11.2 overs unchanged from the Duck Pond End. They were supplemented by the two picked up on Friday evening – a caught and bowled from Pieter Malan and short leg catch to dismiss Zubayr Hamza.
It was at short leg where Ollie Pope helped Bess towards becoming the youngest England spinner since Pat Pocock in 1968 to take five wickets in a Test.
Dean Elgar, who resumed his innings on 32 – South Africa 60 for two, 439 behind – was the man with the greatest stopping power regarding an England victory. But he was undone 12 balls into the day when he edged onto the inside of his front pad. The ball deviated low towards Pope’s right, and the man who notched his maiden Test century yesterday came up trumps again today, clutching a tricky chance and getting England on their way.
Buoyed by the breakthrough, Bess had a spring in his step and even had the confidence to bring his mid on and mid off up. And while Faf du Plessis tried to upset the 22-year old with a couple of skip and slaps down the ground for successive fours in the 24th over, Bess ended it with a switch to over the wicket and another edge onto the pad which provided a simpler chance for Pope to take.
Bess was supplemented perfectly by Mark Wood once again. The Durham quick unnerved South Africa’s top order to assist Bess for the first two and resumed with the same speeds and verve in a three over spell that did not result in a wicket – one maiden and two runs conceded – but did the job once more.
For a moment, it looked like the fifth would not come, certainly not in the morning. Anrich Nortje, the nightwatchman who has put the full-time batsmen for shame to move to 14 from 88 balls in his innings, was shelled at three by Joe Root at first slip.
It was a simple catch to take, much tougher than the half-opportunity Rassie van der Dussen, on 24, stung the palms of Pope in close.
But 11 deliveries before the rains came and took us to an early lunch, Bess had a ninth five-for and first in the top tier. A rushed delivery which got straight on the right-handed van der Dussen was chopped onto the stumps – Bess wheeling away, arms extended, in celebration.
The joy was of course not confined to him, but it was will have made what has been a tough 18 months all the more palatable. His previous best in the format of 3 for 33 came in his second Test, against Pakistan, in 2018. This is only his 21st first-class match since that fixture of which three at the start of the 2019 season came for Yorkshire as he had to leave Somerset temporarily for first-team opportunities.
But here he is, now part of an exclusive club and with the chance to take more. He’s taken all of the wickets to fall so far. Who knows how many more there are to come.