England established complete dominance over a worn and wearied South Africa in Johannesburg, leaving themselves two days to convert their 465-run lead in the fourth Test into a memorable series win.
Captain Joe Root had the rare opportunity to enforce the follow-on for the second match in a row after the hosts were dismissed 217 behind on 183, but he opted to hand his seamers a well-earned rest and pile up scoreboard pressure at the Wanderers.
He led the way personally, top-scoring with 58 as his side made 248 all out at a rate of more than four-an-over in their second innings to lay the groundwork for a huge victory at South Africa’s ‘Bullring’.
That would seal a 3-1 success following the celebrations in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and, with six full sessions to go on a ground where the record chase stands at 310, any other result seems inconceivable.
Flat farewell for Big Vern
Vernon Philander’s final day as a Test bowler ended in desperately disappointing fashion. The veteran seamer has enjoyed wonderful days at the Wanderers but this was not one of them, as he got through just nine balls before limping from the field with a hamstring strain. He had already lost 15 per cent of his last international match fee for an abusive send-off to Jos Buttler and was dismissed by the fifth delivery of the day.
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Billy Cooper, the Barmy Army’s trumpet player for the past 16 years, is hanging up his horn after this match. His musical bursts have accompanied many of England’s best on-field moments in that time and provided the backing for many a favourite chant in the stands. Joe Root showed the team’s appreciation by delivering a signed shirt during the lunch interval in recognition of Cooper’s efforts
De Kock at the double
Day four of five. The last of the series perhaps? England are willing to take it all the way if they have to and South Africa have form for digging in, but the momentum suggests things might be over by stumps.