After waiting for more than a decade, victory came suddenly for England.
England won its first series over South Africa in 11 years after fast bowler Stuart Broad’s devastating 6-17 helped rattle the home team out for 83 in just over 33 overs to set up a seven-wicket victory in the third test on Saturday.
England took a winning 2-0 series lead, wrapping up the game with two days to spare at the Wanderers and the four-match contest with one test still to play.
Broad’s spell of five quick wickets at the start of South Africa’s second innings suddenly changed the course of a fairly even test, and sent England surging to a series victory in South Africa for only the second time since the Proteas’ readmission to international cricket in 1991.
“It’s a pretty special feeling,” captain Alastair Cook said. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the change room to be honest to spend some time with a group of guys that have done something pretty special.”
After Broad finished, England’s batsmen received an easy winning target of 74 on the third afternoon. They were never really in trouble despite three quick wickets as the tourists approached victory. Cook made 43.
The series loss knocked a South African team in transition and blooding new players off the top of the test rankings.
“We just got a good hammering from the opposition. There’s no other way to put it,” South Africa captain AB de Villiers said.
Broad ripped through five of South Africa’s top six in that one stunning spell of five wickets for one run, including De Villiers for a duck and Hashim Amla for 5. That took England galloping toward history by leaving South Africa’s second innings in tatters in the space of 10 overs after lunch. Broad also wrapped up the innings with a diving caught and bowled to finish with six.
Broad wrought his havoc under heavy skies and in gloom that forced the floodlights on, conditions that offered help to the bowlers but still shouldn’t have led to South Africa’s total collapse.
“It was a good time to bowl, but you’ve still got to take your catches and get the ball in the right area,” Broad said. “After lunch we were great as a side. ... (it) felt really intense.”
The inspiration came when coach Trevor Bayliss gave England’s players what Cook called a kick up the backside at the lunch break.
“If you want to win the series, here’s the chance,” Cook said of Bayliss’ advice to the team. “It seemed to work.”
Before lunch, the match, incredibly, was in the balance. South Africa even felt it had a chance of pushing for a win and finding a way back into the series.
South Africa had bowled England out for 323 — with its own burst of five wickets for 85 runs — to keep England’s first-innings lead to just 10. Joe Root was out early in the day for 110 for England, and fast bowler Kagiso Rabada took that important wicket in a career-best 5-78.
South Africa then ground its way to 16-0 at the end of the first session for a lead of six. The game was effectively all level.
Just 12 overs later, England had South Africa 35-5 and down and out. The home team ultimately made its lowest score at home since 1957, confirming for many the end of South Africa’s recent era as the pace-setter in test cricket, and its decade of success. South Africa has lost back-to-back series to India and England.
“We’re not the same side anymore. Lots of different players,” De Villiers said. “We’re still up there in the rankings and all that, but that means absolutely nothing.”
Broad started with Dean Elgar (15) caught behind, then followed that with Stiaan Van Zyl (11), De Villiers (0), Amla (5) and Temba Bavuma (0), with those four wickets coming in four successive Broad overs.
Van Zyl was caught by Ben Stokes at gully while De Villiers went to an inside edge to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, as England’s fielders exploded in delight at that crucial wicket. Broad got brilliant help from fielder James Taylor at short leg with a stunning low catch off a sweet Amla clip off his legs. Amla couldn’t believe Taylor made the catch.
Broad crashed one into Bavuma’s stumps with the batsman deciding to leave what he thought was a short ball. Broad’s run sent South Africa from 23-0 to 35-5.
Taylor took a second sublime catch with a diving effort to get rid of Dane Vilas and give Steven Finn a wicket. Ben Stokes bowled Chris Morris and had Rabada caught behind just before tea.
Broad wrapped it up with Faf du Plessis caught and bowled for 14.
The extent of the achievement for the tourists was that over the last decade, only Australia has won test series in South Africa.