Moeen Ali scored 75* and bagged a 5-for that sealed the deal for South Africa    Getty Images
Moeen Ali scored 75* and bagged a 5-for that sealed the deal for South Africa Getty Images

South Africa were on the right path post lunch. Finally, they had a strong partnership built between Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis. There still was a ray of hope that the visitors might save the series, the two might last till the job was done. Then came Moeen Ali with the ball. After he completed his 5-wicket-haul, England had won the match as well as the series. However, South Africa had not started the match as they ended it. Rather, they were in command after the opening day.

A batting line-up consisting the likes of Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Ben Stokes was reduced to 220 for 6 when England ended the first day. Surely, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada had put the first step right, that is, not letting the top-order score significantly. However, Jonny Bairstow seemed an out-of-syllabus question that the visitors had not prepared for. Bairstow, asked to bat with the bowlers, refused to give up. He showed grit, scored the second half-century of the innings, but got out for 99. Yes, that is how unlucky he was. But he did well to take his team s score to 362. Meanwhile, Rabada ended the innings with a 4-for.

Losing Dean Elgar for a duck was one shock that South Africa seemed not to have gotten over in the innings. The top-order batsmen, except Temba Bavuma, departed in 20s and 30s, which was not enough to take the first-innings lead. Bavuma showed some good defense to reach 46 but could not convert it to a half-century, let alone a long innings.

England s field placements, contrary to South Africa, looked justified. The spectators were elated to see James Anderson take the first wicket from James Anderson end. Stuart Broad and he ran through the line-up, bagging a total of 7 wickets between them. Johnson got a 4-for on the second day itself, while Broad picked up two in the morning of Day Three, bundling the visitors for 226. England took the first-innings lead by 362 runs.

However, England top-order could not prove to be much different to South Africa s. Of the top five, only three registered double-digit scores, Joe Root s 49 being the highest. His innings, though might not have added a lot to the scorecard, was a breather to a tumbling England. As if Morkel, Rabada and Duanne Olivier were giving a fitting reply to Broad and Anderson.

But once again, Moeen pulled off some heroics.

While Baisrtow failed to repeat what he had done in the first innings, Moeen knew it was time he took up responsibilities. It was not a usual Test-cricket-knock as one might expect, but Moeen had the confidence to look in the eyes of the bowlers despite wickets falling all around. South Africa were probably fazed with the way Moeen was batting, and at stumps of Day Three, he remained unbeaten at 67 off 59 deliveries, hitting 8 fours and 3 sixes.

On the morning of Day Four, Moeen got little scope to bat and hit a boundary. Morkel, who was impressive the night before, took no time to clear the rest of the batsmen, ending England s second innings at 243. Moeen remained unbeaten at 75. He could not get a century, but England had snowballed a lead of 379 runs, which did nothing but added pressure on du Plessis boys.

Elgar again disappointed, scoring only 5. South Africa again started depleting like falling dominos. However, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis survived the landslide this time. From 40 for 3 at the end of first session on Day Four, they took the team s score past 150, building only the fourth 100-run stand by South Africa in the series. England, desperate to break the partnership, went to an extent that Joe Root himself bowled an over. But it was a certain Moeen Ali over that changed the course of the game.

While umpire Kumar Dharmasena stuck to his decision of not out despite multiple appeals, England decided to review. Amla had played majestic shots throughout his innings, but this time he got the ball on to his pad. Review revealed, he got it in the line of middle-stump and the ball would have gone on to clearly hit the leg stump. The thorn in England s flesh, Amla had to depart for a commendable 83.

But South Africa still had du Plessis, who soon after completed his fifty. Moeen quickly got two more crucial wickets which once again ravelled South Africa. Quinton de Kock and Theunis de Bruyn were removed at the time of need for almost no contribution, and the visitors only had 4 wickets and 198 runs to score as they took tea.

Surely, the second session of Day Four was the game-changer. It saw South Africa build hope, it saw England crush that.

There was not much left in the final session, or to put it simply, Moeen and Anderson did not let much happen after a tea that they cherished much. South Africa lost du Plessis right after tea. After the leader left field, the tail lasted for only 5 overs. Anderson struck again to remove Rabada for a solitary run, while in the next over, Moeen s consecutive deliveries got Morkel and Olivier for golden ducks to hand England a series-defining, 177-run victory.

No prizes for guessing, Moeen Ali was adjudged the Player of the Match, while he shared the Player of the Series award with Morkel.

It’s been a fantastic series. They played very well, they’re two world class players. It was about being patient as a team. It was a great pitch to bowl, Moeen said about his efforts as England celebrated the victory.

Brief scores:

England 362 and 243 (Joe Root 49, Moeen Ali 75*; Morne Morkel 4 for 41, Kagiso Rabada 2 for 50, Duanne Olivier 3 for 38) won against South Africa 226 & 202 (Hashim Amla 83, Faf du Plessis 61, Keshav Maharaj 21*; James Anderson 3 for 16, Moeen Ali 5 for 69) by 177 runs.

Player of the Match: Moeen Ali

Player of the Series: Moeen Ali, Morne Morkel