Joe Root’s unbeaten 60 helped England amass a 261-run lead over South Africa after a dominant display on day three of the first Test in Durban today.
Root shared half-century stands with Nick Compton (49) and James Taylor (24 not out) as England closed on 172 for 3 against a South Africa attack shorn, temporarily at least, of shoulder-injury victim Dale Steyn.
Moeen Ali (4-69) took three wickets in the morning session as the Proteas slipped from their overnight 137 for 4 to 214 all out, a score that hinged on Dean Elgar (118 not out) becoming the 50th man to carry his bat in Test cricket.
Stuart Broad (4-25) snatched his fourth scalp of the innings from the second ball of the day when Temba Bavuma (10) chopped onto his stumps, a wicket that triggered South Africa losing 3-19 within the first eight overs.
Moeen had JP Duminy (2) and Kyle Abbott (0) caught sharply by Ben Stokes at slip and James Taylor at short leg respectively, though Elgar and Steyn (17) then dug in to add 54 for the eighth wicket in 18.3 overs, during which time Elgar notched his fourth Test ton from 211 balls.
Steyn became Moeen’s fourth victim when he scooped the spinner to a juggling Chris Woakes at mid-off and Steve Finn (2-49) polished off the tail by having Dane Piedt (1) and Morne Morkel (0) caught behind as England plundered a first-innings advantage of 89.
Elgar was left stranded on his second highest Test score –– his 114 against West Indies at Port Elizabeth last December is the left-hander’s best total –– but became the first South African to carry his bat since Gary Kirsten against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1997. Alastair Cook, in contrast, was banished for just seven when England came out to bat, trapped lbw by Piedt (2-65) after nicking off for an 11-ball duck first time around, while his opening partner Alex Hales made 26 before clouting Piedt to long on.
Compton, England’s top scorer in the first innings with 85, and Root would have exited prior to tea had Elgar not dropped a dolly at slip and AB De Villiers –– who announced before play that he was looking to ease his workload in international cricket –– clung on to a one-handed chance behind the stumps.
Compton and Root profited from their reprieves by posting a stand of 71 for the third wicket before the former –– who had a caught-behind decision off part-time spinner Elgar overturned on review –– snicked Morkel (1-19) through to De Villiers, two balls after being dropped by the gloveman.
Root reached his half-century from 96 balls after Taylor joined him at the crease, with the pair’s partnership totaling 53 runs from 90 deliveries as stumps were called at Kingsmead.
South Africa will be ruing the trio of dropped catches but also the absence of key paceman Steyn, who underwent a scan after managing to bowl just 3.5 overs in the day.