Mark Wood starred with bat and ball to give England complete control of the fourth Test against South Africa on a superbly entertaining second day in Johannesburg.
Wood crashed 35 not out in a last-wicket stand of 82 with Stuart Broad that took England to 400 all out, then claimed 3-21 to help reduce the Proteas to 88-6.
England had earlier been at risk of surrendering the initiative, losing three wickets for 11 runs in an overall slip to 318-9 after Joe Root and Ollie Pope both made half-centuries in a stand of 101.
They were put back in the ascendancy by 8.2 overs of chaos caused by Wood and Broad.
The tourists followed that up with a relentless bowling display, led by the extreme pace of Wood, who had all of Pieter Malan, Temba Bavuma and nightwatchman Anrich Nortje caught off edges.
Wood was supported by some excellent catching and a wicket apiece for Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes.
Leading by 312 runs leaves England perfectly placed to wrap up a series win. At 2-1 up, they need only a draw at The Wanderers, while victory would mean they have won three Tests in a single series in South Africa for the first time since 1913.
Meanwhile, Stokes has been fined 15% of his match fee for swearing at a spectator after being dismissed on day one.
Stokes accepted an International Cricket Council charge of using an “an audible obscenity during an international match” and was also given one demerit point.
Wood leaves South Africa on brink
This was another action-packed day in what has been a thoroughly enjoyable series, one that continued the trend of England improvement and South African regression.
The pace and bounce in this pitch has given encouragement to the pace bowlers and confidence to batsmen alike. The thin atmosphere at high altitude can help the ball travel either from the hand or off the bat.
The conditions are perfect for Wood, who bowls at high speed and is happy to swing the blade. Recalled for the last Test, he marked his first England appearance since the World Cup final by clubbing 42 and taking three wickets in the second innings.
Here, he was at the crease when the match was in the balance. Root and Pope had cashed in on some poor South African bowling and tactics, only for the Proteas to be inspired into a fightback by Nortje, who picked up his first five-wicket haul in Tests.
But faced with the prospect of bowling the tourists out for a manageable first-innings total, South Africa were dazed by the Wood and Broad assault, then floored by the Wood-led England attack.
One slight negative in England’s day was the continuing struggle of wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, who gave away his wicket with a wild swipe and was again untidy with the gloves.
Wood and Broad flay Proteas
From 192-4 overnight, and after a 45-minute delay for rain, Root and Pope were able to score freely against South Africa’s baffling short-pitched tactics.
When the speedy Nortje found the right length, the turnaround was instant. Pope dragged on trying to leave, while Root, who had just been dropped, loosely edged to slip and Curran chased a wide one for a golden duck.
Woakes’ 32 steadied England before his edge to first slip gave Nortje a fifth wicket and left England on the verge of being bowled out.
Cue the carnage.
As Wood and Broad threw the bat at virtually every delivery, the ball flew to all parts of The Wanderers – fielders scattered and the bowlers lost their composure.
Broad hooked and lofted down the ground, Wood cleared his front leg to slap two outrageous sixes over cover. Between them, they hit seven maximums.
When Broad finally top-edged Dane Paterson to deep square leg for 43, their partnership was England’s highest for the 10th wicket in an overseas Test since 1923.
Pacemen pound away
In the warm sunshine and on such a good pitch, South Africa were left to rue their decision to mirror England’s five-strong pace attack – they looked desperately short of a spinner during the Wood-Broad partnership.
England, though, showed they had no need for a frontline slow bowler by the way their fast men tore in, offering few opportunities to score, challenging the outside edge and causing the batsmen to hop around.
Wood and Woakes in particular were superb in a post-tea spell that finally resulted in Wood having Malan feather to Buttler with a delivery clocked at 94mph.
Curran, himself finding extra pace, had Rassie van der Dussen poke to second slip, and Dean Elgar tamely patted Stokes to Woakes at point.
Woakes got the wicket he deserved by nipping one back to have Faf du Plessis lbw and Stokes took a fine tumbling catch at second slip when another searing Wood delivery took Bavuma’s edge.
It looked as though the untroubled Quinton de Kock would be seen to the close by the brave Nortje, only for the nightwatchman to give a thick edge to gully from the final ball of the day.
‘Woody makes things a little bit louder’
England pace bowler Chris Woakes told the TMS podcast: “Having Woody in the group is always good, he always makes it a little bit louder. He’s not played much cricket since that World Cup final and it’s great to see him bowling at full tilt. He’s a really important bowler to have in your side in these conditions when you need that something special and that bit of pace. His batting has been incredible. He’s a better batsman that he gives himself credit for.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “There was that moment when South Africa had a chance, but they were blown away by Wood and Broad slamming sixes all over the place. South Africa’s innings never got going; they have been just grinding along at two an over. The thing we might not look forward to tomorrow is Joe Root inevitably batting on.”
Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace on The Cricket Social: “The difference today has been the discipline and patience of the England attack compared to South Africa. It’s England’s day and it’s England’s series. They deserve to win this.”
Ex-England batsman Vikram Solanki: “It’s been the perfect day for England. Rightly so, Wood will take all the accolades but the bowling group put together a real partnership against an inexperienced batting line-up.”