By Ryan Moran

  • England 303 & 326: Compton 85, Steyn 4-70. Bairstow 79, Piedt 5-153.
  • South Africa 214 & 174: Elgar 118, Broad 4-25. Elgar 40, Finn 4-42.
  • The second test starts on Saturday 2nd January in Cape Town.

Durban, South Africa- England bowled the hosts out for 174 on the final morning, 241 runs short of the visitor’s total, sealing a 1-0 victory in the four match series.

England took to the field on the final day with South Africa on 136-4 needing with 416 runs the target for victory. AB De Villiers succumbed to Moeen Ali, LBW, on the third ball of the day before bowling a second consecutive wicket maiden for the wicket of Temba Bavuma, stumped by Jonny Bairstow. Wickets for Chris Woakes and Steven Finn followed but Stuart Broad took the final wicket of Morne Morkel to confirm victory on the final day. While the win was thoroughly deserved, the margin of victory doesn’t tell the story of the game.

A rain-affected opening day in Durban saw the Three Lions put into bat by the Proteas captain Hashim Amla, after the departures of Alastair Cook (0), Alex Hales (10) Amla seemed to have made the right call with the batting team wilting at the crease. Joe Root soon followed Cook and Hales back to the pavilion for 24 leaving Nick Compton and James Taylor the job of rebuilding the innings at 49-3.

Patience was key for the pair with Dale Steyn in fine form having already dismissed both openers but while both made a half century in a partnership of 125, Taylor felt the wrath of Steyn being caught behind by De Villiers. Compton remained at the crease alongside Ben Stokes, making a five run partnership before bad light ended the last session early with the visitors 179-4.

On day two, the tourists couldn’t carry the momentum built from the first day with Morkel taking the key wicket of Compton for 85 along with Stokes, Moeen and Woakes as the fast bowler dismissed four batsmen in the morning session. Bairstow and Broad added respectable scores of 41 and 32 but as Steyn took the tenth wicket of Finn, 303 was the finishing score.

In the absence of James Anderson, Broad took the initiative and finished the second day on 3-16, dismissing Stiaan Van Zyl, Amla and De Villiers who was one short of his half century. Danger man Dean Elgar remained at the crease however, finishing day two on an unbeaten 67 with the hosts 137-4. South Africa found themselves 14-2 but De Villiers and Elgar led the recovery in a partnership of 86, the only partnership of real intent on day two for the Proteas as De Villiers edged behind to end his tenure at the crease.

The home side failed to gain a foot hold on day three as Bavuma’s bails were broken by Broad with only the second delivery of the day, this set the tone for the rest of their innings. Moeen dismissed three of the lower order in fashion with Taylor catching Kyle Abbot as the ball hit bat then pad and then Taylor’s hands at short leg.

JP Duminy fell before Abbot for two, caught by Stokes in the slips while Finn took the final wicket of Morkel as Amla’s side fell 89 runs short of England’s 303 on 214. Elgar finished the innings on an unbeaten 118, De Villiers’ 49 the next closest score.

Cook and Hales took to the crease with the target of extending their lead and declaring on day four to allow enough time to bowl out their opponents for victory. The skipper once again failed to make an impression on the game as the opener made seven as Dane Piedt trapped Cook in front of the stumps for seven, England 14-1.

Cook’s partner Hales fell for 26 to Piedt also trying to clear the infield being caught at long off with the visitors two short of 50. Compton and Root strung a partnership together as Compton edged behind off Morkel one short of his 50 as Compton and Root’s 71 partnership was broken.

England’s strong middle order wasn’t finished as Taylor was next to join Root at the crease, finishing the day on 24 not out, Root 60 not out going into day four. One negative of the day for all cricket fans was to see the departure of Steyn, leaving the field to have a scan on his shoulder after being in discomfort half way through an over, holding his shoulder and looking to the stands.

Root and Taylor took to the crease on day four and looked to score quickly to allow enough time to dismiss their opponents. Root added only 13 before edging to Abbott in the slips for 73, Taylor was stumped off Piedt, who recorded a five-for.

Bairstow came in and made his intentions clear with nine fours and three sixes as the Yorkshireman scored 79 runs in 76 balls as the wicketkeeper was the last wicket to fall as his side finished with 326, South Africa now needing 416 to win.

Finn took 3-27 to break the strong start the home side had made to the innings roaring past the 50 mark in nine innings, Van Zyl the first victim, bowled by Stokes. Amla and Elgar soon followed as South Africa went from 53-1 to 88-3. Faf Du Plessis was the last wicket to fall on day four, Moeen’s straight delivery hitting the pad of Du Plessis in front of the stumps for nine. De Villiers could have been the fourth victim however as Bairstow missed a stumping opportunity off of Moeen. 136-4 was how the Proteas finished, leaving the game finely poised for the last day with 280 runs needed for victory with six wickets in hand.

Six wickets fell for 38 runs in the morning session as England claimed victory with 241 runs the deficit. This piles on the problems for South Africa with India hot on their tails to claim the top ranking in test cricket currently occupied by the Proteas.

Cook spoke to the BBC after the game, relaying praise to Compton for consistently pulling England into contention and relief at a rare victory overseas:

 “The lads played really well. It was tough to bat but the way Nick Compton played after being out of Test cricket for a while, he was a rock in the first innings to give us a platform, and then we bowled well in both innings.”

“It’s our first away win for a long time so we will enjoy this but we know what a strong side South Africa are at home.”

The second test of a four match series takes England from Durban to Cape Town which starts on Saturday 2nd January.

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