© Getty Images
© Getty Images

South Africa took slightly more than a session to get past England on Day Four and posted a massive win by 340 runs. It was a spirited effort from the visitors with Keshav Maharaj, Chris Morris and Vernon Philander wreaking havoc over England’s famed batting line-up. There was no resistance from the home side with 7 batsmen failing to cross double figures. Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes got starts but faltered in front of the Protea fire, who were led exceptionally well by Faf du Plessis. With an emphatic victory in the second Test, South Africa level the four-Test series at 1-1.

Needing 473 runs for an unlikely victory, England began the fourth day at 1 for no loss. Having faced a hostile spell from Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel in the previous evening, they knew what was in store for them. Nonetheless, no one would have predicted such a tame surrender on Monday at Trent Bridge. South Africans were desperate for a win and came out all guns blazing. There were plenty of short balls, yorkers, seamers hitting the deck and Maharaj getting turn as well.

Going to lunch at 79 for 4, England needed a miraculous partnership. However, nothing of that sort happened. With the big guns in form of Alastair Cook and Joe Root sitting in the hut, the onus rested on Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. Their dugout must have hoped for an encore of the splendid stand between the two in Cape Town in 2015-16, but soft dismissals put them out of contention.

Bairstow tried to counterattack and free his arms post lunch but departed giving a simple catch at mid-on. Stokes and Moeen Ali were involved in a 38-run stand including 8 fours. The duo played out a few maiden overs, but got the runs coming from thereon. Du Plessis brought Keshav Maharaj into the attack. He was hammered for a few boundaries, but the South African skipper persisted with him. Moeen swept a lot of deliveries before finally falling prey to it. He played his favourite shot out of the rough, but was caught at square-leg. Stokes followed suit. He went for an early drive and obliged Philander with a simple return catch. The implosion continued and England quickly surrendered for 133 with James Anderson being the last man out.

South Africa were on top since the morning session. Philander hit the middle stump on most occasions and started the onslaught. He was accompanied by Morris as both the camps went for lunch. After the break, the show belonged to Maharaj who picked up key wickets and strangled the hosts. In the end, Root was left sitting in the balcony with plenty to ponder upon.

The triumph has brought du Plessis’ side back on track. They have levelled the four-Test series after the horrendous performance at Lord’s. Looks like all they required was the services of their regular skipper who missed out on the series opener. His approach and captaincy was spot on. He led from the front by opting to bat amidst cloudy weather on the opening day. The senior players stood up and never allowed England to bounce back after the 130-run lead. Philander was adjudged Man of the Match for his handful contribution with the willow and a five-wicket haul in the match.

Captains corner

Root: I suppose it’s all about how we respond from here. It is important that we stay tight. There are areas we have to improve and take positives from here. It’s difficult, South Africa reacted to conditions better than we did. It is obviously disapppointing, credit to them for playing the way they did. I don’t think it is a concern, I am sure they will spend sometime there and get runs (on top three). It has been a tough week for him. Could not get wickets, hopefully he will be fir for selection. We have to sit down on selection and make sure we are happy with what we have going into the next Test. We are going to make sure that we improve and get better.

Du Plessis: I just thought we did our basics better. It was important for us after Russell (coach) left us. It is always tough after something like that. We just focussed on getting back on things we have done better in the past. We let England dominate in the last game. We did brilliantly and never lost the momentum. Hashim and mine partnership was important. It did not matter how many runs I was scoing. Morkel did not take many wickets but maintained the pressure, and Maharaj as well. It’s also sometime for us to get away from games and relax and make sure we get back with same intensity.

The man who made the difference:

Philander: We were all disappointed after the Lord’s Test match and needed to do something better here. Going into that Test I was a bit cold with the ankle injury that I sustained playing for Sussex.. Over here, I got my groove back. Once you get the rhythm going, you need to make the most of it. Always (on asked how he enjoys bowling to England left-handers). It gives (Morkel bowling well) me the freedom of going about my things. I think he is one of those bowlers known for keeping it tight. All the bowlers have been significant in this match. It was very tough on the first morning, a bold decision to bat first on this wicket. They got us those runs to defend in the end. An all round performance from the team today.

Brief scores

South Africa 335 all-out & 343 for 9 decl. (Dean Elgar 80, Hashim Amla 87, Faf du Plessis 63; Moeen Ali 4 for 78, James Anderson 2 for 45) beat England 205 all-out & 133 all-out (Alastair Cook 42, Ben Stokes 18, Moeen Ali 27; Keshav Maharak 3 for 42, Vernon Philander 3 for 24, Chris Morris 2 for 7) by 340 runs.

Man of the match: Vernon Philander