The England bowlers made short work of the Proteas on day five to win the first Test at Kingsmead by 241 runs.
Few would have bet on the Proteas to save this Test. They went into day five with only six wickets intact. The odds were always against South Africa blocking out the day and securing a draw.
That said, their resistance ended sooner than expected. Moeen Ali and Steven Finn ripped through the South African middle and lower order to help England claim those six wickets in less than two hours.
AB de Villiers, the great hope for an unlikely rearguard stand, lasted three balls before Ali trapped him lbw. Two overs later, Temba Bavuma charged down the pitch to Ali and was stumped by Jonny Bairstow.
It wasn’t long before Finn got in on the action. Finn bowled beautifully late on day four to claim the big wickets of Dean Elgar, Proteas captain Hashim Amla, and the rock, Faf du Plessis. Early on day five, Finn produced another zinger of a delivery. Dale Steyn was not equal to the task.
JP Duminy and Dane Piedt attempted to delay the inevitable, but the Proteas were eventually dismissed for 174. For the ninth time in the last 12 Test innings, the collective has failed to post a total of 200 or greater. Something is profoundly wrong, both with key individuals and the lineup as a whole.
Can South Africa bounce back after such a crushing defeat? The Proteas came into this series on the back of a humbling 3-0 loss to India. They needed a big response following a shambolic performance on the subcontinent. They needed to beat England in the first game of this series and regain some confidence.
At Kingsmead, they failed on all counts. England emerged from the first Test as deserved victors. England will take momentum into the second match at Newlands.
The visitors should be boosted by the return of star bowler James Anderson. By contrast, South Africa will be without Vernon Philander and possibly Dale Steyn due to injuries. The hosts will miss Steyn in the next Test at Newlands.
The Proteas can’t afford to lose the next game. That result would see England taking a 2-0 lead in the four-match series. It would leave South Africa with the task of winning the final two games just to secure a series draw.
Should South Africa lose this series, they will surrender their status as the world’s No 1-ranked Test side. After the performances in India and the most recent debacle at Kingsmead, some might say they are the world’s best only in name.
England 303 (1st Innings) – Nick Compton 85, James Taylor 70, Dale Steyn 4-70, Morné Morkel 4-76
SA 214 (1st innings) – Dean Elgar 118 not out, AB de Villiers 49, Stuart Broad 4-25, Moeen Ali 4-69
England 326 (2nd Innings) – Jonny Bairstow 79, Joe Root 73, Dane Piedt 5-153, Stiaan van Zyl 3-20
South Africa 174 (2nd innings) – Dean Elgar 40, AB de Villiers 37, Steven Finn 4-42, Moeen Ali 3-47
England won by 241 runs