|Fourth Test, Johannesburg, (day four of five):|
|England 400 (Crawley 66; Nortje 5-110) & 248 (Root 58, Hendricks 5-64)|
|South Africa 183 (De Kock 76, Wood 5-46) & 274 (Van der Dussen 98, Wood 4-54)|
|England won by 191 runs|
England surged to a 191-run win in the fourth Test against South Africa to complete a 3-1 series victory – only their second overseas success in four years.
After setting the home side an unlikely 466 to win, the tourists were frustrated by 98 from Rassie van der Dussen, who added 92 with Faf du Plessis.
They were dismissed in successive overs by Ben Stokes and Mark Wood just before tea to leave South Africa 187-4, then Stuart Broad accelerated England’s charge with two wickets in an as many of his own overs after the break.
The retiring Vernon Philander was the first to fall in a final collapse of 4-14 to 274 all out, Wood taking the last wicket to end with 4-54 in the innings and nine in the match.
It gives England three wins on a tour of South Africa for the first time since 1913-14 and also means they have won three successive Test series against the Proteas.
Joe Root’s side close the gap on second-placed Australia in the World Test Championship, a deficit they can cut further on the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March.
Before then, England play one-day cricket for the first time since winning last year’s World Cup with three matches against South Africa that are followed by three Twenty20s.
‘Cursed Tour’ ends in triumph
The way England ended this series, celebrating in the sunshine to the soundtrack of retiring Barmy Army trumpeter Billy Cooper, was such a contrast to the mood at the beginning of the tour, when mounting problems left them in disarray.
Stokes’ father was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital in a serious condition and the majority of the squad were hit by illness before or during the heavy first Test defeat at Centurion Park. Immediately after that, opener Rory Burns’ tour was ended by ankle injury sustained playing football.
However, despite losing James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Jack Leach to more injury and illness, England slowly asserted their dominance and showed themselves to be vastly superior to a Proteas side in transition.
Most pleasing for the tourists will be the emergence of a number of young players – batsmen Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, along with spinner Dom Bess, all impressed at various points.
Wood also returned to Test cricket with pace and menace, and with Root looking more assured than any other point in his tenure as captain, there are plenty of reasons for England to look to the future with optimism.
England complete victory charge
As South Africa’s chase of what would have been a Test record began on the fourth morning, England had two full days to take the 10 wickets required for victory.
In conditions offering little signs of sideways movement and with South Africa showing periods of resistance, there were times when it looked like England would have to return on Tuesday.
Each member of their five-strong pace attack was excellent, but when variety was required and with no frontline spinner to call upon, part-timers Root and Joe Denly were flayed.
Just when Van der Dussen and Du Plessis were set to take their stance into the evening, and with Du Plessis engaged in some verbal sparring with the England fielders, Stokes, as ever, provided the inspiration. The all-rounder, generating 90mph pace, hit a crack and bowled the home captain via the toe of the bat.
In the next over, Wood went round the wicket and drew Van der Dussen into a drive to short cover. From there, the four-day win was in sight.
Broad had Temba Bavuma glove a snorter, then induced a top edge from Dwaine Pretorius. After man-of-the-match Wood got De Kock to miscue to mid-on, the rest was a formality.
South Africa soundly beaten
South Africa started the series with the optimism of legends Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis joining their management team, hope that seemed well founded when they won the first Test.
However, that now stands as their only win in a run of eight defeats in nine games.
They may have begun Monday in a seemingly dire situation, but The Wanderers has seen extraordinary finishes in recent times. Michael Atherton’s rearguard in 1995, South Africa falling eight short of chasing 458 to beat India in 2013 and, in one-day cricket, the Proteas overhauling Australia’s 434 in 2006.
Van der Dussen was the man who threatened to do something special. After overturning being given lbw to Chris Woakes when on nought, he played some classy strokes, as well as punishing the spinners.
Both he and Du Plessis took a number of blows in bravely defying the England pacers, only for the captain to fall foul of a trick of the surface and Van der Dussen to be suckered in by Wood.
For Du Plessis, this looks set to be his last home Test in charge, while seam bowler Philander brought down the curtain on an outstanding 64-Test career.
Batting with a torn hamstring, he gloved Wood down the leg side and left to standing ovation, handshakes from England and a guard of honour from his team-mates.
‘The sky’s the limit for us’
England captain Joe Root: “The sky’s the limit for us. We’re at the start of something. It’s been a real squad effort. We’ve got to keep learning. It’s been a fantastic tour for our development as a Test team. It’s very exciting.”
Man of the series Ben Stokes: “The most important thing is that we’re walking away with series win. But it’s been a rollercoaster with everything that has gone on. I hope my old man is in hospital bed watching this with a big smile on his face.”
Former England captain David Gower on The Cricket Social: “In Ben Stokes you have one of the great players already. Time will tell what his eventual figures will look like. They’re building up to be Botham-esque at this stage. He’s the hardest-working cricketer in that team, if not the world.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “Joe Root’s position as captain has definitely been strengthened on this tour. He’s scored runs, he’s handling bowlers better now after not getting it right in New Zealand, with Jofra Archer especially. He’s looking like a captain, he’s running around and pointing here and there. There is no doubt who is in charge.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis: “We did play well in that first game. But one Test doesn’t make a summer. Right through the series, England were a bit better than us in every game. You have to give the credit to them for being the better team.”