South Africa v England: Tourists lose first Test by 107 runs

Sam Curran
England collapsed from 204-3 to 268 all out in Centurion
First Test, Supersport Park, Centurion (day four of five):
South Africa 284 (De Kock 95) & 272 (Archer 5-102)
England 181 (Philander 4-16) & 268 (Burns 84, Rabada 4-103)
South Africa won by 107 runs; lead 1-0 in series
Scorecard

South Africa claimed a convincing 107-run victory as England collapsed again on the fourth day of the first Test in Centurion.

The tourists, needing to complete a record chase of 376, resumed on 121-1 but were bowled out for 268, with Kagiso Rabada taking 4-103.

A collapse of 7-64 sealed victory for South Africa, despite 84 from Rory Burns and Joe Root's 48.

The second Test of the four-match series begins on Friday in Cape Town.

It would have required a huge effort from England to secure victory on a wearing pitch but once the second new ball was taken, wickets fell quickly.

While both Root and Jos Buttler were able to bat despite being ill on Saturday, no batsman could produce an innings of substance to anchor England's chase.

South Africa were patient throughout the morning session and pressed home their advantage after lunch to end a run of five successive Test defeats.

Too little too late from England

Overnight, England spoke about taking inspiration from Headingley, where they made 362 to beat Australia in August, but this total always felt beyond their grasp.

South Africa set the tone from the start, Vernon Philander bowling four maidens to Burns, with only 10 runs scored in the first half-hour.

The frustration showed when Burns top-edged the superb Anrich Nortje's second ball to Rabada at mid-on, while Joe Denly, after almost being caught on the hook, was trapped lbw by Dwaine Pretorius for 31.

After scoring just 50 runs in the morning session, England accelerated after lunch, with Stokes sweeping and driving left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj when he was introduced into the attack.

However, a mistake from Stokes, trying to cut a quicker delivery from Maharaj and edging it on to his stumps with only seven overs until the new ball, initiated the collapse.

Jonny Bairstow was out in the first over of the new ball, driving a wide Rabada delivery to gully, before Root, looking uncomfortable after being stuck twice on the left hand by Rabada, sent a thin edge off Nortje through to the wicketkeeper.

The final wickets fell quickly. Sam Curran nicked Rabada behind, Jofra Archer fended a 90mph Nortje delivery to first slip, Buttler was caught at deep mid-wicket trying to launch a second successive six off Rabada before Broad was bowled.

England showed patience and determination on the fourth day and, had they found a similar temperament in the first innings, the result may have been different.

Joe Root
Joe Root was furious after edging Anrich Nortje behind to fall for 48

Should England have batted first?

Root has now lost 15 of his last 36 Tests as captain, with 17 victories and four draws, and of all England skippers to have led in a minimum of 35 Tests, he is the only one with a loss percentage in excess of 40.

The decision to bowl first would only have worked for England if they had managed to get a first-innings lead, but they were thwarted first by a counter-attacking 95 from Quinton de Kock and then a batting collapse of 7-39.

It meant England spent three days in the field and they looked flat on the third morning, when they struggled for consistency.

A lack of a spinner meant England had no way of controlling the run-rate - Jack Leach was unavailable for selection because of illness - and Archer was expensive in taking five wickets.

Bairstow, recalled in the ill Ollie Pope's absence, scored just 10 runs in two innings, while opener Dom Sibley is yet to cement his place with an impressive score.

South Africa may have been low on confidence but, in their own conditions, with the pace of Rabada and Nortje and Philander's accuracy, they are tough to beat and England twice collapsed against their disciplined bowling.

Ultimately, a lack of first-innings runs that cost England and left them languishing in sixth place in the World Test Championship, 300 points behind leaders India.

'A tough week' - what they said

England captain Joe Root: "It's been a really tough week off the field. Pretty much everything has been thrown at the group.

"We were fully confident we could chase those runs down. I still think the toss was a 50-50 call.

"Hopefully that's the end of the illness, so we can bounce back strongly."

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis: "We needed that. The last couple of months has been tough for us. We haven't won a Test match in a while.

"We've got a happy everyone in the dressing room. That's the best feeling in the world - winning a Test match."

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: "England deserve credit for the fight they showed today - this was no pushover in awkward conditions.

"The damage was done earlier in the game, not least bowling first on the broiling opening day. It was the wrong decision to put South Africa in to bat.

"But South Africa's batting is as fragile as England's, so we should be in for a good, tight series."

Analyst Simon Hughes on The Cricket Social: "England's build-up to Test series away from home is poor. Their preparation is not good enough. They have two warm-up games which are glorified nets.

"It's ridiculous to expect England to perform well in overseas conditions when you have two meaningless warm-up games."

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