Vernon Philander picked up two wickets in the first hour, and Chris Morris followed with two of his own as South Africa went to lunch firmly on top on the fourth morning of the second Test against England.
The hosts face an uphill battle to save the game and any thoughts of achieving the target of 474, are now long gone. At lunch England were 79/4, with Jonny Bairstow on 12 and Ben Stokes on 5.
It didn’t take South Africa long to get among the English batsmen with Philander bursting the eleventh ball of the morning through Keaton Jennings’s defence clean bowling the tall left-hander for three.
Jennings had clearly been put off by a couple of earlier deliveries that had run across him, but nevertheless his defence was still questionable, and against the nagging accuracy of Philander those sorts of weaknesses will be exposed.
The same goes for Gary Ballance, England’s no.3 who is stuck on the crease and is susceptible to any ball that’s pitched up to him. South Africa had pushed him onto the back foot - he’d earlier survived an lbw appeal which the South Africans reviewed after Ballance had been given not out against Morne Morkel’s bowling.
In the next over when Philander again pitched it up to him, Ballance played all around the ball and was trapped plumb in front. Umpire Simon Fry, who’s not having his best game, said not out, but South Africa, perhaps a little gun shy having been proved wrong in the previous over took their time before Faf du Plessis signalled he wanted to review. It turned out to be the right decision by the South African captain and Ballance was sent on his way for four.
Morkel and Philander were coming to the end of their respective spells just as Root came to the crease, putting the support seamers, Morris and Duanne Olivier under the microscope. The latter sadly, failed his examination, offering Alastair Cook in particular too many freebies.
Morris, however was a revelation, claiming the two big wickets of England’s current captain and the former with two very different deliveries, but both were of the highest standard.
Root, had his, off-stump err, uprooted by a magnificent out-swinging yorker, bowled at searing pace for eight. The silence that greeted that dismissal was akin to what you’d hear in Mumbai if Sachin Tendulkar was out an indication that this very knowledgeable crowd knew the game was up for their team.
Cook had played bravely throughout the session, surviving some close calls against both Morkel and Philander. There was very little he could do against the high-paced bouncer he got from Morris, and ended up in an awkward position not knowing whether to play the ball or duck underneath it.
In that tangle, he gloved the ball down the leg-side with Quinton de Kock taking a superb catch, diving to his right.
Cook scored 42, and as he departed so did any England hopes perhaps of saving this Test. Morris meanwhile lunched on the back of a high quality spell of fast bowling with figures that read: 6-3-7-2. Philander has picked up 2/16 from seven overs.