Lunch England 211 for 6 (Stokes 1*, Rabada 5-76) trail South Africa 475 by 264 runs
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Rabada leaves England on the ropes
Kagiso Rabada tore through England’s batting line-up with three quick wickets on the stroke of lunch to leave South Africa scenting victory in the final Test at Centurion.
Rabada took 3-0 in 12 balls, removing Joe Root, James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow in turn as England subsided to 211 for 6 at lunch, still 64 runs short of avoiding the follow-on, as South Africa turned the Test heavily in their favour.
It was a display of great control and nous by Rabada, who had 5 for 76 at lunch, his second five-wicket haul after a return of 5 for 78 in Johannesburg had put an unrewarding Test introduction on spin-friendly surfaces in India behind him.
His progress this series has been swift, his speeds consistently around 140kph, and his control excellent. At 20 years old, he is a prize asset but he is still physically developing and South Africa will have to nurture him with care as they prepare for a future – not too distant now – without Dale Steyn.
Alastair Cook must wait for the potential accolade of the youngest player to reach 10,000 Test runs – and as he watched England flounder he must be ageing by the minute.
England secured the series at the Wanderers but as the midpoint of the Test approached they had been outplayed at Centurion after losing a highly influential toss on an unimpressive surface that looks unlikely to last the course.,
Cook, 67 not out overnight, began fifty runs short of the record, but he added only nine runs in an hour before he was unpicked by Morne Morkel, an excellent delivery from around the wicket which bounced and seamed away to take the edge.
He has one more innings in South Africa to secure a record that looks inevitable, barring injury, as he still has a full English summer to achieve it. Cook has ticked off the record thousand by thousand since his Test career began to evolve, the youngest batsman at every measuring point.
The wicket stirred Morkel, who had struggled to find his rhythm – something South Africa could not afford after selecting only four specialist bowlers.
The removal of Root, the mainstay of England’s batting line-up, was a huge breakthrough for South Africa. Root had launched England’s challenge by taking three back-foot boundaries off him in a over, the first of them thick-edged wide of gully, but he became the first victim of the morning when Rabada produced one that shaped away a tad around off stump for de Kock to hold a simple catch.
Rabada struck again when Taylor was too early on a pull shot that was both too wide and high for the shot, especially with wickets falling and lunch approaching, and cue ended the ball to the wicketkeeper.
Taylor might have been defeated by the inconsistent bounce, but it was an unwise shot with a short leg and two men back for the shot.
Three balls later – the last before the interval – Rabada added Bairstow for nought. It was a dismissal that emphasised he is already a bowler of craft, an offcutter bouncing back at Bairstow who failed to withdraw from the shot to catch the glove and give de Kock his fourth catch of the innings.
South Africa had squandered two reviews in the morning session. Morkel’s belief that he can get Cook caught down the leg side is all very well, but not when South Africa review an appeal – as they did when Cook was 70 – that missed the bat by several inches. The noise must have been that made when a theory collides with reality.
There was over-eagerness, too, in de Kock’s belief that he had held a leg-side tickle from Root off the offspinner, Dane Piedt. Again there was no contract. By lunch, though, such considerations had been forgotten as Rabada made deep inroads into England’s order.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo