A fired-up Morné Morkel took four wickets in the first session on day two to reduce England to 303 all out.
South Africa needed a response. They needed to fight back after a disappointing performance late on day one. They had to strike early on day two and limit the scoring of the England batsman.
Thanks to an inspired spell of bowling by Morkel, the momentum has swung back in South Africa’s favour. Morkel removed the dangerous Ben Stokes for 21 inside the first half hour. He was at his most destructive, however, in the period after the drinks break.
The dismissal of Nick Compton was a big moment. The ball Morkel bowled to induce an edge from Moeen Ali was the best of the session. Chris Woakes then wore a delivery by Morkel on the pads and was given out lbw.
While Morkel deserved reward for his toil, the England batsmen will lament a loss of concentration at crucial moments. Stokes played aggressively in an attempt to dominate Dale Steyn and Morkel early on, and succeeded to an extent. However, the all-rounder will regret the shot that cost him his wicket and stalled England’s momentum.
Compton fought hard over the course of his innings, and looked set for a well-deserved century. He and Jonny Bairstow did well to recover in the wake of Stokes’s dismissal and add 51 runs to the total. The good work was undone when, after the drinks break, Compton tried to pull a short delivery from Morkel and only succeeded in getting a bottom edge to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.
Ali and Woakes were both dismissed without scoring. Bairstow was running out of partners at that point, and so proceeded to take more risks. He was eventually caught by Dean Elgar off Kyle Abbott’s bowling.
Just when it looked to be all over for England, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn put on a valuable 10-th wicket partnership of 36 runs. This effort ensured that the visitors progressed beyond the 300-mark.
South Africa are well placed to seize the initiative. The bowlers have done well to limit England to less than 320. The onus is now on the Proteas batsmen to ensure that the hosts build a first-innings lead.
England 303 all out (1st Innings) – Nick Compton 85, James Taylor 70, Dale Steyn 4-70, Morné Morkel 4-76