PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA – England walloped South Africa by an innings and 53 runs in the third test on Monday to turn the series around and lead 2-1 with one to play.
England needed four wickets on the last day in Port Elizabeth and fast bowler Stuart Broad ticked the first one off in the first over to send Vernon Philander packing for 13.
England went through the South African tail fairly quickly to have the home team 138-9 until a boundary-filled last-wicket partnership of 99 between Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson held up the victory charge.
Maharaj hit 10 fours and three sixes. He hit three fours and two sixes off England captain Joe Root in one over. The last ball went for four leg byes and those 28 runs equaled the world record for number of runs in a test over.
No. 11 Paterson clubbed six fours in his 39 off 40 balls.
It was temporary frustration. England finally ended it when Maharaj tried a quick single with South Africa in sight of making it to the lunch break. He was run out by a direct hit from Sam Curran.
Despite South Africa’s last stand, the scale of England’s victory was still stark.
The tourists now need to add the finishing touch in the last test in Johannesburg. A draw there will be enough for a landmark series victory away from home for Root’s young team.
The way the series has spun around, England expects more than a draw to finish off.
England made 499-9 declared batting first at St. George’s Park with centuries by Ben Stokes and the 22-year-old Ollie Pope, whose 135 not out was his first test century.
England bowled South Africa out for 209 in its first innings and 237 in its second innings on Monday morning for the huge victory.
Spinner Dom Bess, another 22-year-old, took a career-best 5-51 in the first South African innings and fast bowler Mark Wood had 3-32 in the second innings on his return to the team for the first time in nearly a year because of injury.
There were positives everywhere for England but the greatest being that Root’s test team has learned to win again having gone through a lean 2019, when the English lost in West Indies and New Zealand and failed to win back the Ashes at home.
South Africa can still save the series at the Wanderers but will have to do it without leading fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who is banned, and with its coach, captain and under-performing batting lineup under severe pressure.
South Africa has to make at least one change to replace Rabada but could be forced into a much larger re-think of its team amid suggestions at home that the Proteas are facing their toughest time in recent memory.