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England in South Africa: Joe Root takes four wickets in Port Elizabeth

Ollie Pope’s fine catch gave Joe Root one of his four wickets
Third Test, Port Elizabeth, (day four of five):
England 499-9 dec (Pope 135*, Stokes 120; Maharaj 5-180)
South Africa 209 (Bess 5-51) & 102-6 (Root 4-31)
South Africa trail by 188 runs

Captain Joe Root took four wickets to push England closer to victory on the fourth day of the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

Root’s best figures in Test cricket left the home side 102-6 following on in their second innings, still 188 short of making England bat again.

In all, the tourists took 10-103 across the day, a superb bowling performance which began with claiming the final four wickets of the South Africa first innings in the first 28 deliveries of the morning session.

Stuart Broad grabbed three wickets without conceding a run as the home side played some awful strokes to add only one to their overnight 208-6.

Following a three-hour rain delay, South Africa showed some resistance, albeit with the scoreboard barely advancing.

After Mark Wood struck twice, captain Faf du Plessis at least survived 123 balls for his 36.

He would ultimately become the fourth victim of Root’s off-spin, the skipper putting England on the brink of going 2-1 up with one Test to play.

Their main obstacle to securing the series lead seems to be the weather, with more rain forecast for Monday.

England dominate meek Proteas

The first day of this match was evenly contested, but since then England have been in control, their dominance never more complete than a Sunday on which South Africa almost surrendered.

From 291 behind overnight, South Africa had a realistic chance of avoiding the follow-on. If they had, given the weather, their chances of escaping with a draw would have been greatly enhanced.

Instead, their batting veered from reckless in the morning to virtually shotless for the rest of the day.

In damp, grey and windy conditions, Broad and Sam Curran first used the second new ball to run through the lower order.

It meant England enforced the follow-on for the first time since defeating West Indies at Edgbaston in 2017.

After Root’s haul, England may have been able to take the extra half-hour had Dom Sibley held an incredible attempt or Ben Stokes taken a much more straightforward chance to catch Vernon Philander, both off Wood.

Instead, they must return on Monday and hope that the weather holds.

Root rolls England on

Root choosing to bowl himself was no desperate measure, rather an attacking move on a pitch that has aided the spinners throughout.

Bowling round the wicket, Root fired in his off-breaks, with any turn challenging the pads and the inside edge of the right-handers.

Collectively, South Africa played him appallingly and, helped by some excellent catching, Root returned the best figures by an England captain in 36 years.

Pieter Malan was lbw to one that straightened, then the utterly befuddled Rassie van der Dussen was acrobatically held by Ollie Pope at short leg.

Wood brilliantly leapt at point to hold Quinton de Kock’s second loose shot of the day before Pope took another short-leg catch to end Du Plessis’ resistance.

Broad burst sets up victory push

Dean Elgar was bowled by Mark Wood to become the first wicket to fall in the second innings

It is just over four years to the day since Broad took 5-1 in 31 deliveries to bowl England to victory against the same opponents.

While his Sunday burst is not yet match-winning, it gave England much more time than they could have imagined to bowl South Africa out again.

With his sixth ball of the day, Broad nipped one back through Philander’s needless drive and, in the following over, Curran bowled De Kock, who was playing a stroke even worse than Philander’s.

In his next over, Broad bowled Keshav Maharaj via a bottom edge off an ugly pull, before Kagiso Rabada tamely patted to mid-off.

After the rain, when Wood’s extreme pace accounted for Dean Elgar and Zubayr Hamza, there was a real chance that South Africa would subside again.

They were at least steadied by Du Plessis, who at one point went 54 balls without scoring.

Philander and Maharaj ate up more than 10 overs at the end of the day, meaning the Proteas will start Monday as they did Sunday, with four wickets in hand. Any sort of repeat will mean that the weather is not a factor.

‘South Africa horror story’

England pace bowler Mark Wood told the TMS podcast: “It has been an amazing day. This morning no-one saw that four wickets for one run.

On playing for England for the first time since the World Cup final: “Six and a bit months since July, it has been a long time. When I bowl a ball and see the stump go flying it is one of the best feelings you can get. It makes those hard times worth it. There are still times now I have my fingers crossed hoping to wake up in the morning and everything is going to be alright.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “The way South Africa went about their batting this morning was a complete horror story. Awful, awful shots – stumps flying everywhere. There was no appetite for a fight there.”

Former England pace bowler Matthew Hoggard on The Cricket Social: “England were totally dominant – aided and abetted by South Africa. They have gifted wickets to England. The amount of trouble that Joe Root has caused, coming round the wicket, is a mystery. I can’t understand how they haven’t come up with a plan to counteract that.”

Former England coach Peter Moores: “A fantastic day for England. The game has been in fast-forward all day – it has been classic scoreboard pressure. South Africa didn’t know whether to stick or twist. England are in a fantastic position to go 2-1 up in the series.”

South Africa coach Mark Boucher on Sky Sports: “Mentally the guys were switched on. It’s about understanding the situation. Every side has its breaking point. Today we broke pretty early.”

Article courtesy of BBC Sport
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