NOTTINGHAM - A lengthy spell from Morné Morkel brought South Africa great reward when he removed England captain Joe Root, to lift the touring team’s spirits midway through the second session here Saturday.
England went to tea on 184/6 still trailing South Africa by 151 runs with Moeen Ali on 14 and Liam Dawson on two. The Proteas had been bowled out for 335 in the morning, with Jimmy Anderson picking up four wickets in 16 balls.
It was a tense afternoon session, with a gentle drizzle falling, and South Africa made immediate in-roads after lunch when Vernon Philander bowled Gary Ballance off the inside edge and the thigh for 27 with the total having been moved on by just one run from the 85/1 it was at the break.
Root kept scoring fluently either running well between the wickets or unfurling a boundary of some sort. The England captain was in stunning form, even though South Africa had given him a few freebies before lunch. His driving was crisp and elegant and when asked to pull he did so with great style and power.
South Africa pressed hard and Morkel was asked by Du Plessis to bowl a seventh over in his spell from the Radcliffe Road End.
The first ball of that over saw Root reaching for a drive which he edged behind with Quinton de Kock taking a magnificent catch diving in front of slip. Root’s 78 came off 76 balls and included 12 boundaries.
South Africa were re-energised by that wicket and with Jonny Bairstow looking very scratchy at the other end, the Proteas turned the screws. Morkel eventually ended an eight over spell that went for 26 runs with that wicket of Root reward for some disciplined work.
The pressure Morkel had helped to create, brought reward for left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, an unlikely source for wickets given that this was a very welcoming day for the seamers in cloudy conditions, with the ball still darting around off the surface.
Bairstow had denied Stokes any strike for five overs until the big all-rounder got to face Maharaj, who got a ball to jump out of the footmarks, with Stokes getting an inside edge which bounced awkwardly off his pads and gave De Kock a few troubles as it deflected off his shoulder before he was able to catch it.
There was a delay while TV umpire Sundaram Ravi went through various replays to try and determine if the ball had hit De Kock’s helmet, but having found no evidence of that, Stokes was sent on his way for a duck.
Bairstow then got a beauty from Maharaj, that pitched on middle and hit the top of off-stump to dismiss the England wicket-keeper for 45, that included seven fours. South Africa will hope they can wrap up the England tail quickly and build on whatever they lead they have on the first innings.