Despite the best efforts of captain Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla, South Africa could not prevent the inevitable on the fourth day at Old Trafford. After being set 380 to win, they crumbled to 202 all out on Monday (August 7), losing their last seven wickets for 39 runs, which gave England a 3-1 series win. It was their first at home against the Proteas since 1998.
The highest fourth innings chase to win a match at Old Trafford was the 294 made by New Zealand in 2008, so 380 was always a long shot. But when du Plessis and Amla were going strong during the afternoon session, in a partnership of 123, it was beginning to look less daunting than it first appeared, particularly after South Africa had lost their first three wickets for 36. There was, at least, some faint hope to cling on to.
Amla, in perhaps his last Test innings in England, played beautifully for 83, hitting 13 boundaries and a six. Two fours in consecutive balls off Toby Roland-Jones, one through cover and one through mid off, were the Amla of old. He defended resolutely, his feet moved nicely and his rhythm looked the best it has throughout this series.
Once he was dismissed, LBW while playing back to Moeen Ali – England successfully reviewing the original not out decision from Kumar Dharmasena – it was a procession. Quinton de Kock played expansively outside the off stump to England’s spinner and was caught at second slip by Cook, and then Theunis de Bruyn was caught low down at slip by Ben Stokes two balls later poking at a ball with precious little foot movement. Moeen had taken three wickets for five runs in eleven balls.
England had started excellently with the ball after their last two wickets had fallen for the addition of 15 runs in the morning. Stuart Broad (1-24) and James Anderson (3-16) found prodigious movement off the seam and in the air which made life treacherous for South Africa’s top order. In truth, they did well to survive to the extent they did and there was certainly no lack of application from the visitors’ batsmen.
Dean Elgar was the first to go, caught behind off Stuart Broad for five to a ball which held its line outside the left-hander’s off-stump. Six overs later, Heino Kuhn, who had battled gamely for 29 balls, was drawn in to a ball he could have left off Anderson, edging to Cook in the slips for 11. Kuhn finished the series with just 113 runs. When Temba Bavuma was caught behind off Toby Roland-Jones at the stroke of Lunch, South Africa looked like they might not last the next session.
That they did was down to Amla and du Plessis. England used five bowlers during their partnership, including Joe Root, but both batsmen played with relative comfort on a pitch which was at times turning sharply and bouncing variably. Amla hit Moeen in to the pavilion for six and du Plessis twice drove Broad handsomely for four as South Africa’s two best players displayed increasing authority.
It was Moeen’s three wickets which nipped their charge and du Plessis, who had started to play more aggressively after de Bruyn’s wicket, went almost immediately after Tea. Anderson bowled an innocuous delivery outside off stump to which South Africa’s captain had a flat-footed waft, feathering an edge through to Bairstow for 61. It was a tired looking shot. Du Plessis, you felt, knew the game was up.
The last three wickets fell quickly after that as the South African tail disintegrated. Anderson had Kasigo Rabada caught at cover by Tom Westley and shortly after, Morne Morkel spooned Moeen to mid off. The very next ball, Duanne Olivier was caught by Cook at slip which gave England a 178-run win and the series victory.
Moeen, who finished with 5 for 69 , ended the series with 25 wickets and 252 runs. He is only the second Englishman, alongside Sir Ian Botham in 1981 and 1985, to achieve the 25 wickets and 250 run double in a Test series. It has been a brilliant four matches for the all-rounder. In contrast, after three months on the road and defeats in the ODI, T20 and Test series, the South Africans have had a chastening time.
Brief scores: South Africa 226 & 202 (Hashim Amla 83, Faf du Plessis 61; Moeen Ali 5-69) lost toEngland 362 & 243 (Moeen Ali 75*, Joe Root 49; Morne Morkel 4-41, Duanne Olivier 3-38) by 177 runs.