Kagiso Rabada took the prize wicket of Ben Stokes as South Africa kept England to 260 for 6 on the first day of the fourth and final Test at Old Trafford on Friday (August 4).
Stokes, fresh from a century in England’s 239-run victory in the third Test at The Oval, which gave them a 2-1 lead in the series, was leading a revival with the bat. But Rabada struck with the new ball in the penultimate over of the day when a full-length delivery, which surprised Stokes, smashed into the base of the stumps and bowled the left-handed batsman for 58.
Rabada, banned from the second Test for swearing at Stokes in the series opener, yelled in joy. He finished the day with figures of 2 for 52 in 18 overs, but the worth of South Africa’s efforts with the ball will only become fully apparent when they bat.
Jonny Bairstow, who might have fallen for 4, was 33 not out and Toby Roland-Jones was on nought at the close.
For the tenth successive Test, Joe Root, England’s Test captain, made a half-century. But only two of those innings have yielded centuries and Root, who has previously acknowledged his conversion rate as a failing in his otherwise impressive game, was out for 52 on Friday.
England were unchanged from the side that triumphed in The Oval Test, but South Africa recalled Duanne Olivier and Theunis de Bruyn after Vernon Philander and Chris Morris were both ruled out with lower back strains.
Root again won the toss and batted, but struggling opener Keaton Jennings fell for 17.
Jennings, under pressure for his place after just one half-century in nine Test innings since a century on debut against India in December, was caught behind by Quinton de Kock off Olivier.
Alastair Cook (46) and Tom Westley (29) both exited after lunch with England on 92. Cook got a thin edge driving at Keshav Maharaj and was caught behind. Westley, fresh from a second-innings half-century on debut at The Oval, nicked a good-length Rabada ball, with de Kock holding a superb diving catch for his 100th Test dismissal.
Dawid Malan was looking for a big score after managing just 11 runs during his Test debut at The Oval. Morne Morkel, however, saw off Malan when the left-hander edged a drive to Faf du Plessis at second slip.
Morkel has repeatedly bowled well this series without proper reward. Another example of his bad luck came when Root edged the towering quick on 40, only for de Kock to inexplicably remain rooted to the spot for what was his catch. De Kock’s anguished expression as the ball went through the slips for four spoke volumes.
Fortunately for de Kock, it was not an expensive error, with Olivier the beneficiary of a misjudgement by Root, who was out lbw to end a 101-ball stay. During his innings Root, at 26 years and 217 days, became the third youngest player after Sachin Tendulkar (25 years and 301 days) and Cook (26 years and 10 days) to score 5000 Test runs.
There was confusion when Bairstow appeared to be caught for four off Maharaj only for umpire Kumar Dharmasena to eventually ask for a review of Dean Elgar’s slip catch. Despite seemingly insufficient evidence to change an on-field ‘soft signal’ of out, Joel Wilson, the third umpire, ruled in England’s favour.
Stokes completed an 89-ball fifty before Rabada’s late strike in the last significant action of the day.