Chris Morris saw off Joe Root and Alastair Cook to leave England on 79-4 going into lunch on day four at Trent Bridge.
It was a task of gargantuan proportions for England, as they would need to smash the record for the highest-successful run-chase in Test history to go 2-0 up in the series. It was always going to be highly unlikely on a difficult pitch that they would come anywhere close the 474 required, and now it’s almost impossible, with the Proteas needing only six wickets for victory.
Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings survived the last four overs of the day on Sunday to go into day four on 1-0, but it was a tough four overs that saw Cook overturn an lbw review off the first ball of the innings. Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander continued to pile on the pressure in clear conditions in Nottingham. Eleven balls into day four, Philander found the breakthrough, as Jennings left plenty of daylight between his bat and pad to be bowled for three, continuing his poor form in this series.
Questions have to be asked of Gary Ballance’s place in the side, too. Shuffling around uncomfortably deep in his crease, he was always going to be vulnerable to one which kept low, and sure enough Philander (2-16) did exactly that. The umpire thought it was straying down leg, but at the last second Faf du Plessis reviewed it, and it was hitting. Ballance departed for four, with England struggling on 28-2.
Cook, notoriously poor at Trent Bridge with just one fifty to his name from 17 innings there, was England’s last remaining hope when skipper Joe Root departed, and it was a cracker of a delivery from Chris Morris, who’s done more than enough to warrant his place in the side. Not expecting the yorker, Root missed the full delivery, which swung late enough to remove Root’s off-stump, and he went for eight.
And then the hammer blow. Morris (2-7), the fastest bowler in this match, bowled predominantly short, and one zipped off the surface to surprise Cook. He gloved it as he tried to swat it away, and Quinton de Kock took a fine grab to his right for the former captain to trudge back for 42.
Jonny Bairstow (12) and Ben Stokes (5) are still there, but Keshav Maharaj is getting it to rip and it’s only going to get better for the bowlers. It’s going to take quite an effort for the hosts to just survive the session from here.
SA 335 (1st innings) – Hashim Amla 78, Quinton de Kock 68, Vernon Philander 54, James Anderson 5-72
England 205 (1st innings) – Joe Root 78, Jonny Bairstow 45, Keshav Maharaj 3-21, Chris Morris 3-38
SA 343-9 declared (2nd innings) – Dean Elgar 80, Hashim Amla 87, Faf du Plessis 63, Moeen Ali 4-78
England 79-4 (2nd innings) – Alastair Cook 42, Jonny Bairstow 12*, Chris Morris 2-7, Vernon Philander 2-16
England need 395 more runs to win
Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images