South Africa 151 and 88 for 3 (Petersen 20*, van der Dussen 14*) trail England 415 for 9 dec by 176 runs
England’s bowlers established a chokehold on South Africa’s batting on the third morning at Emirates Old Trafford, ripping out three key wickets in the first 14 overs to move inexorably towards a series-levelling victory ahead of next week’s third Test at the Kia Oval.
Though Keegan Petersen and Rassie van der Dussen – playing through the pain of a seemingly broken finger – endured to lunch in a hard-worked stand of 34, scoring opportunities were few and far between against a relentless attack, led by the seamers but with Jack Leach’s left-arm spin beginning to find some purchase before the break. The deficit remained a daunting 176, and a packed Bank Holiday crowd had an air of expectation about it.
South Africa had fought hard on the second evening, following England’s first-innings declaration, to reach 23 for 0 at the close. But that resilience was unpicked with haste upon the resumption, with their captain and linchpin Dean Elgar falling within 15 minutes of the resumption – brilliantly outfoxed by James Anderson, whose 662nd Test wicket took him to 949 in all internationals, bringing him level with Glenn McGrath as the most prolific seamer across formats.
The morning began with the left-field sight of Joe Root unfurling his offbreaks for a two-over foray, targeting the growing patches of rough outside the two left-handers’ off stumps. That experiment came to a hasty end, however, thanks to the quality of the operator at the other end.
Anderson, from the James Anderson End, needed just four deliveries to line up Elgar and send him on his way for the sixth time in Test cricket. The third of those was every bit as complicit as the last – first, a wicked seaming delivery bit the pitch from round the wicket and lifted past Elgar’s splice, the the next, a fraction fuller, skidded straight past a now-crease-bound batter, to pluck out his off stump for 11.
Ollie Robinson was immediately brought back to the attack, and his set-up for Erwee was more of a long con, but no less expertly executed. After probing his defences with consistent shape across his bows from over the wicket, including a low edge to second slip that Zak Crawley couldn’t quite reach, Robinson switched round for his third over of the morning, and found the perfect full length, with a hint of away movement to snick the edge through to Ben Foakes.
Throughout all of this, Stuart Broad was an eager bystander – relegated to first-change status for this match but gagging for his slice of the action when his turn finally came with the hour mark approaching. And within five balls, he seemed to have served up the ball of the Test so far – an unplayable bail-trimmer that kicked past Aiden Markram from a fractionally fuller length.
Unfortunately for Broad, if his length was fuller, then so too was his front foot – by a matter of millimetres, as the third umpire belatedly called the no-ball. Nonplussed but undeterred, Broad settled for bagging his man in his second over instead, as Markram chased a wider one that appeared to go through the top of the dry surface. Crawley gobbled the edge at second slip, but Broad pointedly curbed his enthusiasm until he’d received a thumbs-up from umpire Chris Gaffeney. His front foot had been given a clean bill of health, and South Africa were creaking at 54 for 3. Despite a doughty second hour, it remained England’s session by a distance.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket