|Third Test, Port Elizabeth, (day five of five):|
|England 499-9 dec (Pope 135*, Stokes 120; Maharaj 5-180)|
|South Africa 209 (Bess 5-51) & 237 (Maharaj 71, Root 4-87)|
|England won by an innings and 53 runs|
England sealed their biggest away win in more than nine years in the third Test against South Africa to move 2-1 up with one match left in the series.
Needing four wickets on the fifth morning, the tourists bowled the Proteas out for 237 to seal victory by an innings and 53 runs.
From 102-6 overnight, still 188 short of making England bat again, South Africa’s margin of defeat would have been even greater had it not been for Keshav Maharaj, who clubbed 71.
In a freewheeling 10th-wicket stand of 99 with Dane Paterson, Maharaj at one stage took 45 runs from 14 deliveries.
Before that, England’s progress had been serene. Just as he did on Sunday, Stuart Broad removed Vernon Philander in the first over of the day, before Mark Wood had Kagiso Rabada caught at mid-on and Dom Bess bowled Anrich Nortje.
However, what started as Maharaj and Paterson trying their luck turned into genuine frustration for England, with the ball disappearing to all parts and fielders scattered all over Port Elizabeth.
It was eventually ended when Maharaj attempted a single to mid-on, failing to beat a Sam Curran throw that hit the non-striker’s stumps.
England will win the series if they avoid defeat in the fourth Test in Johannesburg, which begins on Friday.
England’s complete performance
England were in such disarray at the beginning of this series that Ben Stokes revealed they were referring to their trip to South Africa as “The Cursed Tour”.
Illness swept through the squad before and during the first-Test defeat at Centurion Park, Stokes’ father was admitted to hospital with a serious illness and opener Rory Burns had to go home with an ankle injury sustained playing football.
Even though England have suffered injuries to bowlers James Anderson and Jofra Archer since then, they have turned their fortunes around to stand on the verge of only their second away series victory since they won in South Africa four years ago.
They have done so with experienced players like Broad, Stokes and Joe Root performing, but what is most encouraging is the development of the younger players. Dom Sibley, 24, struck his maiden century in the second-Test win, and in this match 22-year-olds Ollie Pope and Bess recorded a first hundred and first five-wicket haul respectively.
After an even first day, England utterly dominated this match on a flat, slow pitch, the kind of surface on which they have struggled so badly away from home in recent times.
The end result was their first innings win in an overseas Test since the famous 2010-11 Ashes triumph in Australia.
Victory completed – eventually
This match was hit by bad weather on days two, three and four, but any hope South Africa had of being saved by the elements was dashed by clear skies and sunshine on Monday.
Root, who took four wickets on Sunday, hunted his first five-wicket haul in professional cricket by bowling unchanged for more than an hour.
Meanwhile, Philander’s push at Broad resulted in an inside edge on to pad that was held at mid-wicket, Rabada was caught off a leading edge and Nortje was bamboozled by Bess.
Root even gave himself the second new ball, only to be hit for three fours and two sixes by Maharaj. When the final delivery went for four byes, the 28 runs conceded equalled the record for the most expensive over in Test history.
That was the signal for Maharaj and Paterson to play shots at virtually every ball, with Wood and Curran also coming in for some harsh treatment.
By this point, England were somehow unable to hit the stumps when bowling and were only spared more toil by Curran’s accurate throw.
Not only did the tourists ensure they will at least draw the series, they strengthened their position in third place in the World Test Championship, still some distance adrift of top two India and Australia.
South Africa problems
South Africa’s win in the first Test ended their run of five successive defeats, but since they have quickly unravelled.
And their obstacles to preventing a 3-1 series loss – which would be a repeat of the scoreline when England last visited in 2015-16 – are growing.
Pace bowler Kagsio Rabada is banned for the final Test, while the threat of Vernon Philander, who retires after the match in Johannesburg, has gradually diminished throughout the series.
However, it is a lack of runs that is the home side’s main problem, not least the form of captain Faf du Plessis, who has gone nine innings without a half-century.
On Sunday, South Africa coach Mark Boucher said he had “no clue” if Du Plessis would carry on as skipper, with the player then confirming his desire to continue in the post-match presentation.
Du Plessis is one part of a misfiring middle-order. Number three Zubayr Hamza’s place is under threat from Temba Bavuma, who made 180 in South African domestic cricket last week.
‘There is still life in this series’
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “I’m sure Joe Root would love to have Mark Wood and Jofra Archer together for the last Test. Confidence in that South Africa dressing room must be rock bottom – and they have lost Kagiso Rabada for the last Test. But there’s still life in this series. If South Africa win in Johannesburg, they will draw the series – they must remember that.”
England captain Joe Root: “It’s a great template for how we want to play our cricket: a big first-innings score and drive the game forward from there. We want to keep giving our young guys confidence so that when they get their opportunities they feel they can perform. Our team is all about the collective and we’ve got a very good squad of players. Having guys at a young age stepping up is a really exciting place to be.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on his future: “I have heard the rumours about a possible retirement. I have been clear and consistent that the Twenty20 World Cup [starting in October] is the time I am looking for. Nothing has changed.”
Article courtesy of BBC Sport