TeaSouth Africa 71 for 8 (Broad 5-14) lead England 323 (Root 110, Stokes 58, Rabada 5-78, Morkel 3-76) by 61 runs
Stuart Broad was outstanding as he collected the first five wickets © Getty Images
Stuart Broad left England in ecstasy on the third afternoon in Johannesburg as he summoned one of the great Test fast-bowling bursts to leave them on the brink of victory in the match and the series.
Broad’s sequence of 5 for 1 in 36 balls destroyed South Africa’s top order in the first hour after lunch as 23 for 0 became 35 for 5. It was the seventh time in his Test career that he has produced a five-wicket spell. When he runs hot the opposition are scalded.
South Africa had suffered disturbing collapses in India, but this disintegration in front of their own supporters, and in the ferocious setting of the Bull Ring, will cause the most heartache of all.
A fluctuating Test that had been tantalisingly poised after the first innings, with England holding an insignificant 10-run advantage, lurched towards England in spectacular fashion as South Africa lost eight wickets in the session – a home series defeat in the offing. A big weekend crowd were stunned to see the No 1-ranked side in the world picked apart with such hunger.
A muggy day had provided perfect conditions for swing bowling, the pitch offered pace, bounce and increasing seam movement, and Broad responded to his opportunity voraciously. A great bowler or a bowler of great spells? He was certainly producing the latter as he past Bob Willis’ record of 325 Test wickets to go third on England’s all-time list behind James Anderson and Ian Botham.
In the first innings, he was enervated by the stomach bug that had raged through the England camp. Now his health had returned – his straggly hair the only reminder that he had been unwell. He bowled with great intensity, hit an excellent length with resolve, his pace up to maximum.
Broad’s first wicket, three overs into the afternoon, needed Dean Elgar to fend at a wide one, but that was enough to inspire him. Even the solitary single he conceded in his five-wicket burst came from a dropped catch offered by Stiaan van Zyl as Anderson failed to hang on at second slip. Van Zyl was soon cleaned up by sharp lift and movement and a catch for Ben Stokes at second slip.
South Africa had banked upon setting a ferocious pace quartet loose on a Wanderers pitch possessing more grass than normal. Instead, with the pitch possibly at its quickest, they fell foul of Broad as he revived memories of his 8 for 15 to dismiss Australia for 60 in one spectacular session at Trent Bridge in August.
If the openers were a satisfying starter, the main course – AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla in successive overs – was a main course served to few. It took a fine delivery to dismiss de Villiers for a five-ball duck, jagging back sharply for Jonny Bairstow to hold the inside edge.
Amla was the first of two batsmen to fall to a stunning catch by James Taylor at short leg – shrewdly positioned, it turned out, slightly more forward than usual. Taylor was on the rise when he changed direction to clutch Amla’s firm clip by his ankles. The little men, Taylor and Temba Bavuma, are perfectly designed for the role – instant response units, armed with fast reflexes, bravery and an ability to get down quickly from a low starting position.
Bavuma then played on for a duck, swaying back with an intention to leave but running the ball onto his stumps. Broad, who relishes the role of the Bad Guy on tour, signalled his five wickets to the crowd. When Faf du Plessis, struck on the shin, picked the ball up and tossed it back to him, he looked aghast, hands on hips, with theatrical villainy. He puffed out his cheeks and extended his spell to 10 overs before standing down with 5 for 14 to his name.
Amid all this, Anderson had cursed his way through an unrewarded spell, finding movement himself, but still looking out of sorts with the world. Instead it was Steven Finn and Ben Stokes who offered support.
Dane Vilas fell to another outstanding catch by Taylor, another firm stroke, this time the fielder flinging himself to his right to intercept. Finn’s first wicket was followed by two for Stokes, who also swung the ball lavishly, bowling the right-handed Chris Morris with one that came back, then finding outswing to the left-hander to silence Kagiso Radaba’s brief flurry.
Rabada, a quality fast bowler in the making, was somewhat overshadowed. But he had prospered in the morning in a manner that augers well for South Africa’s future, taking his first took first five-wicket haul in Tests. Rabada, blessed with a smooth action and a calm head, took three of England’s last five wickets on the third morning as they added another 85 runs in a Test that had been fluctuating from the outset.
For all the praise directed towards Joe Root on the second day for one of the finest hundreds of his career, the Test had still been in the balance when play resumed. At 238 for 5, England trailed by 75 and Root himself did not stay long. He added only four to his overnight 106 when an airy drive against Rabada in the second full over of the day gave the wicketkeeper Dane Vilas a simple catch.
Moeen Ali crashed a couple of short balls from Hardus Viljoen to the boundary before Viljoen smashed his bat to smithereens in response. South Africa’s fielding was sharp and athletic, nothing better than Vilas’ fleet-footed change of direction to catch Moeen when Chris Morris found a big inside edge.
Viljoen also put Broad on his backside with one that reared back at him – Broad, swaying out of the way, played it well and looks to be slowly firming up his shaky technique against the quicks – but it was Rabada who dislodged Broad with an excellent yorker that struck off stump.
With eight down, Jonny Bairstow was in danger of being left stranded. A short ball from Morne Morkel did for Finn – the ultra-edge technology spotting the slightest brush of the glove as he tried to defend – and Bairstow’s attempts to force the pace gave Rabada a five-for when an attempted pull plopped gently to midwicket.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo