South Africa smashed England by 280 runs in the fourth Test to finish the series with a consolation victory.
The result was expected, the margin of victory less so. England went into the final day at Centurion with a slim chance of saving the match. They were expected to put up a fight. In the end, it took a mere 65 minutes for the Proteas to land the knock-out blow.
While it was an emphatic result in isolation, it won’t change the result of the series. England went into the fourth Test with an unassailable 2-0 lead. They knocked South Africa off the top of the Test rankings (India are now at No 1). The outcome of the game at Centurion will change nothing in that respect.
That said, the Proteas will celebrate this result. The win at Centurion marks their first Test victory in 12 months. After nine Tests without success, they are back to winning ways.
They should also celebrate the performances of their younger players, Man of the Match Kagiso Rabada in particular. Rabada ripped through England in the first innings to claim 7-112. In the second dig, Rabada fired again to take 6-32.
His final match figures of 13-144 are the second-best by a South African in Test history. No South African has done better on home soil. Makhaya Ntini took 13-132 against the West Indies in Trinidad in 2005.
Thirty minutes into the first session on day five, Rabada was no-balled after finding the edge of Jonny Bairstow’s bat. The fast bowler shook off the disappointment to have Bairstow out caught behind the very next delivery.
That dismissal took the 20-year-old to 10 wickets. He is the youngest South African to take a 10-wicket haul in Tests.
Rabada played three of the four Tests in this series, but still managed to finish ahead of England’s Stuart Broad in the wickets column. The effort on day five boosted Rabada’s overall tally for the series to 22 (Broad finished on 18).
The 23-year-old Quinton de Kock also made a big impression in his first game back from injury. While he missed a few opportunities behind the stumps, he made the most of his chance with the bat. Hashim Amla scored 109 and 96 in his match, but it was De Kock’s 129 off 128 balls that put South Africa in a good position.
Ultimately, it was left to the South African bowlers to finish the job on day five. Morné Morkel started things off with a vicious delivery that brushed the glove of James Taylor. Dane Piedt made a crucial contribution with the key wicket of Joe Root. Kyle Abbott bowled just one over due to a hamstring injury. In the end, that didn’t hamper the attack as a whole.
From there, Rabada was relentless, hitting a superb length to find the edge on three occasions. The yorker that trapped England No 11 James Anderson was another beauty. Thanks to Rabada, South Africa finished the series on a high and ended their nine-game winless streak.
England won’t be happy with their showing on day five. They will be thrilled with the outcome of the series, which finished 2-1 in their favour.
England deserved to win the series, and Ben Stokes deserved to be acknowledged for his contributions. At the conclusion of the game at Centurion, Stokes was named Man of the Series.
Most will remember the thrilling 258 Stokes scored in the second Test in Cape Town. Stokes finished the series with 411 runs at an average of 58, and 12 wickets at an average of 29.
SA 1st innings 475 – Quinton de Kock 129 not out, Stephen Cook 115, Hashim Amla 109, Ben Stokes 4-86
England 1st innings 342 – Alastair Cook 76, Joe Root 76, Moeen Ali 61, Kagiso Rabada 7-112
SA 2nd innings 248-5 declared– Hashim Amla 96, Temba Bavuma 78 not out, JP Duminy 29, James Anderson 3-47
England 2nd innings 101– James Taylor 24, Joe Root 20, Kagiso Rabada 6-32, Morné Morkel 3-36
South Africa won by 280 runs