England slipped to 300-7 at lunch on day two of the fourth and final Test against the Proteas at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Resuming on 192-4 overnight, England welcomed a wicketless opening session on the back of half-centuries from captain Joe Root and sidekick Ollie Pope.
The first delivery after the morning’s drinks break yielded a breakthrough for the hosts, as Pope chopped a probing delivery from fast bowler Anrich Nortje on to the stumps.
Root fell soon thereafter, having survived a dropped catch from slip fielder Faf du Plessis earlier. This time, Nortje didn’t need the butterfingered Du Plessis with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock ready for a straightforward catch.
All-rounder Sam Curran then flashed a full and wide delivery, suffering a first-ball duck. De Kock and Nortje were again solid in combination. The pace ace welcomed Test-best figures of 4-93, surpassing the 3-56 against the same country in Centurion late last year. With the innings’ second new ball in hand, Nortje will pursue a maiden Test five-for after the lunch break.
Friday had seen the hosts concede England’s first century partnership for the first wicket since 2016, when openers Keaton Jennings and Alastair Cook starred against India in Chennai. This time, openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley capitalised against the Proteas seamers.
South Africa are without fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for this fixture. He was banned by the International Cricket Council after an overzealous celebration of Root’s dismissal during last week’s third Test at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth. The home side also omitted spinner Keshav Maharaj from the XI.
This Test is all-rounder Vernon Philander’s last. He will retire from international cricket next week in favour of a Kolpak contract with Somerset in English county cricket later this year.
England lead the series 2-1. They lost in Centurion before winning in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Pieter Malan, Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma, Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philander, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson, Beuran Hendricks.
England: Zak Crawley, Dominic Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad.
Photo: Gallo Images