By Ryan Moran

  • England record three-day victory in the third test, leading the series 2-0.
  • South Africa: 313 & 83, Broad 6-17. England: 323 & 74-3
  • Stuart Broad ranked number one test bowler by the ICC.

Johannesburg, South Africa- Stuart Broad’s six wickets helped England beat South Africa in the third test with two days to spare, confirming a series victory, only their second in their last 15 attempts away from home.

England batted twice on day three as Broad ripped through the Proteas’ top six, taking 5-1 in 31 balls, as the hosts went from 23-0 to 35-5, finishing all out for 83. Already in the final session, Alastair Cook’s side won the battle against the fading light to claim victory two days early, Joe Root’s four through the leg side surpassing South Africa’s total.

England started day three in bat, 238-5, losing their last five wickets for a mere 81 runs. Root started the day on 106 but the Yorkshire batsman could only add four runs, Kagiso Rabada finding the edge of the bat as Root attempted to drive the bowler.

Jonny Bairstow was the pick of England’s bottom order, a stalwart as wickets fell around the wicketkeeper. Moeen Ali broke his bat guiding the ball into the leg side, 15 runs later the spinner was back in the pavilion, caught behind by Stiaan Van Zyl from an inside edge off Glen Morris.

Bairstow hooked Rabada behind to put the tourists two runs in front, eight runs later the bowler got revenge as England finished on 323 all out, ten runs ahead. Bairstow was the fifth to fall to Rabada, the bowler’s first five-for in test cricket.

The hosts made a positive start until Broad caught the inside edge of Dean Elgar’s bat, the first of six wickets for the bowler. James Taylor’s instinctive fielding at short leg ended Hashim Amla’s stint at the crease, catching the ball inches off the floor, before diving to his right to send Dane Vilas walking off of Steven Finn.

Rabada top scored with 16, a show of what a disappointing day it was for South Africa. England dug deep and held important catches, none more so than Taylor’s catch from Amla’s glance.

With 77 needed and light disappearing, Cook and Hales picked the gaps well, the captain cutting beautifully between point and cover before Root fittingly drove the winning runs. England’s star batsman and bowler providing the match winning performance when it was needed.

Ben Stokes’ stock within the current test side is growing with every game, three wickets in the first innings and a second highest score in the first innings of 58 showed his prominence, along with a sumptuous in swinger to relieve Morris from the crease, taking the leg stump.

The all-rounder has climbed 10 places in the bowling chart to 33rd, after taking three for 53 and two for 24, also climbing two places to 36th in the batting rankings with 58 from his only innings in the game. Root climbed from fourth to second in the ICC batting rankings as a result of his 110 and seven unbeaten runs. Bairstow also climbed two places in the batting rankings, level with Faf Du Plessis who drops one place to 30th.

South Africa’s Rabada five for 78 moved the fast bowler from 102nd to 74th, an improvement of 28 places. As a result of the series loss, the Proteas may drop more than one place in the test rankings if they fail to claim victory in the Centurion Test, played between 22nd and 26th January, being replaced by India at the top.

Man of the moment Broad climbed to the peak of the bowling rankings, overtaking Dale Steyn at the top, climbing two places. His two for 82 and six for 17 warranted his climb to the top, the first Englishman in 11 years, the last bowler to manage the same feat was Steve Harmison.

England’s opening bowler has played second fiddle to James Anderson and took full advantage of the limelight this time around with his partner regaining full fitness. His consistency to hit the same lengths, playing to a field expertly set for the conditions, Broad carried out an assault on a South African side who had no answers to his bowling.

Aided by superb fielding and only one dropped catch, Broad is finally getting the credit his bowling warrants. The opening bowler is a big game player, taking 11-121 at Chester Le Street to win the Ashes in 2013 and 8-15 at Trent Bridge in 2015 shows he has previous for delivering the best at vital times.

Cook spoke to the BBC after the victory about Broad’s impact, having only mustered a 10 run lead with their first innings:

“Rather than sulking about it the lads looked at themselves, led by Broady, and there was a real intensity in the field for that two-hour session.

“It was a realisation from a guy that doesn’t say too much that this is the time: if you want to win the series then you’ve got an opportunity.”

South Africa captain AB de Villiers followed up Cook’s praise when talking to the BBC, with credit given to England’s bowling attack as a whole in the Proteas’ second innings:

 “I haven’t seen a team bowl like that for a long time. We were outplayed in the second innings – credit to them.”

The Centurion Test ends the series with England looking for a third win in the four match series against South Africa.

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