Vernon Philander picked up two wickets early in the day to push England to 79 for 4 at lunch on the fourth day. © AFP

Vernon Philander picked up two wickets early in the day to push England to 79 for 4 at lunch on the fourth day. © AFP

Vernon Philander and Chris Morris took two wickets apiece as South Africa took giant steps towards a series-levelling win against England on the fourth day of the second Test at Trent Bridge on Monday (July 17).

At lunch, England were 79 for 4, with their top four dismissed in the morning session, and needed a further 395 runs to achieve the unlikely victory target of 474.

Philander removed Keaton Jennings (3) and Gary Ballance (4) during a burst of two wickets for eight runs in 19 balls. Morris followed up with two for two in 20 balls as he dismissed Joe Root (8) and Alastair Cook (42).

Jonny Bairstow was on 12 and Ben Stokes on 5 at the break.

The most made by any side to win in the fourth innings of a Test is Windies’ 418 for 7 against Australia at St John’s in 2002-03, but the more immediate task for England is to see if they can avoid defeat with more than a day to spare, after they had gone 1-0 up in this four-match series with a 211-run win inside four days in the first Test at Lord’s.

England resumed the day on one for no loss, the run having come off a leg bye on the third evening when Cook and Jennings negotiated four overs after South Africa had declared their second innings on 343 for 9.

Sunny blue skies were in the batsmen’s favour on Monday, but a wearing pitch and the sheer mountain of runs in front of them gave South Africa a considerable advantage.

Philander, known for his ability to move the ball at a lively pace, needed just five deliveries to strike from the Pavilion End when Jennings was undone by an excellent ball that nipped back to uproot off stump.

Ballance, in his third stint in Test cricket and under huge pressure to hold on to his place, was then lbw to Philander after Simon Fry, the umpire, saw a decision overturned for the fourth time this match when replays showed a skidding delivery had pitched in line and would have hit leg stump.

England were 28 for 2, with Root once more coming in after a top-order slump.

Root had made 190 in his first innings as England captain at Lord’s and top-scored with 78 in their meagre first-innings 205 this match. But he fell cheaply this time, Morris producing an excellent yorker with just his seventh ball of the day to knock over off stump.

Cook, however, struck four fours in eight balls off Duanne Olivier, only playing this match after Kagiso Rabada was suspended for swearing at Stokes at Lord’s. But Cook’s near two-hour innings ended when he was beaten for pace by a well-directed Morris bouncer and gloved down leg side, where Quinton de Kock held a fine catch.