Vernon Philander and Chris Morris dismantle England top order
ESPNCricInfo - Monday 17th July, 2017
Live and ball-by-ball details
Brilliant bowling by South Africa's pace attack threatened to turn the Trent Bridge Test into a rout as England lost four wickets on the fourth morning in hopeless pursuit of a world-record 474 to win on a deteriorating pitch.
Data suggests no surface degenerates more reliably than Trent Bridge in Tests in England - and that is normally no bad thing - and South Africa made voracious use of their opportunity, removing England's top four by lunch.
South Africa's new-ball attack, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, were at the peak of their game and this time they gained excellent support from Chris Morris with only Duanne Olivier, an unimpressive stand-in for Kagiso Rabada, failing to pose a perpetual threat.
Philander repeatedly battered away on an excellent line and length as if determined to wear his own hole in the pitch, Morkel possessed uncomfortable bounce and Morris mixed up bouncers and yorkers with alacrity as England struggled to muster resistance, careering to 79 for 4 by the time the lunch clock brought temporary release.
England had a single to their name overnight. It felt utterly worthless; their defeat looked only a matter of time. Perhaps they could have planted it and hoped it germinated, or framed it and put it on the wall. Wickets would not be long delayed.
Alastair Cook put up most England resistance, scrambling 42 from 76 balls before he became the fourth England batsman dismissed, hurried by Morris' excellent bouncer and punching it away from his face down the leg-side where Quinton de Kock held the catch.
Cook's Trent Bridge record almost defies belief. In 10 Tests at Nottingham, he averages 21.93, less than half his Test average and has managed a solitary half-century - 50, nothing more, nothing less - against Australia in 2013.
It was asking a lot for him to remedy that on this sort of surface. The sound track of the morning was the rapping of pads and the yelping of South Africa fielders as thick edges dropped wide of slips and flew past gully.
Keaton Jennings got off the mark by hooking a bouncer from Morkel, a show of resolve perhaps, although his shot could have fallen anywhere. He has been in mediocre first-class form all summer which did not inspire confidence. He fell in the second over of the morning, Philander wasting no time in creating a gap between bat and pad to bowl him.
Ballance never got out of his ditch. His only scoring shot careered unhealthily through gully, off Philander. He required attention from the physio when Morkel struck him on the bottom hand. Pushing warily forward to Philander, he fell lbw.
South Africa's successful review, to win the lbw decision was a model of grown-up conversation. They had lost a review in the previous over - Cook narrowly surviving because of Morkel's high bounce - and du Plessis demanded responsible information as he might if lives were at stake.
Philander, who delivers from so close to the stumps that his chances of lbw are heightened, was adamant, the captain conceded and the wicket was theirs.
Root, the captain, played inside a yorker from Morris. Another excellent delivery from a South Africa attack hunting England down with admirable skill.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
Sacha Guitry's La poison is a bitter pill of a black comedy about a marital relationship that has not just soured, but become positively toxic. The great, shambling French star Michel Simon (Paul Braconnier), whose hangdog mug would be fascinating ...
In his speech to world leaders today (Sep. 19) at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, in New York, President Michel Temer said that Brazil should be more open to the world and show more concern ...