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Fourth Test, day two: England in commanding position against South Africa

Fourth Test, day two: England in commanding position against South Africa
© Reuters
Mark Wood took centre stage as the tourists established total command.

Mark Wood moved England into an impregnable position on day two of the fourth Test against South Africa, scoring important late runs before helping himself to three wickets at the Wanderers.

Having posted exactly 400, Joe Root’s side reduced their hosts to 88 for six, well set to enforce the follow-on for the second game in a row and replicate last week’s heavy win at Port Elizabeth.

Root (59) and Ollie Pope (56) set the tone with fluent half-centuries in the morning, but it was a last-wicket stand of 82 in just 50 balls between Wood and Stuart Broad that really hurt South Africa.

The pair shared seven sixes and four boundaries as they turned a competitive score into a powerful one, hammering away at their opponents’ morale with every blow.

Wood was 35 not out at the change and was on hand to take advantage personally, breaking 94mph as he took three for 21.

Big number

Analysts Cricviz rate Mark Wood’s dismissal of Pieter Malan as the second fastest wicket-taking delivery for England, behind only a 97mph ball from his fellow Ashington boy, Steve Harmison,

Buttler on the brink?

Jos Buttler has struggled with the bat in South Africa
Jos Buttler has struggled with the bat in South Africa (Themba Hadebe/AP).

With Jonny Bairstow currently out of the team and Ben Foakes not even in the squad, Jos Buttler’s position as wicketkeeper-batsman has come under scrutiny. His messy dismissal for 20 here lowered his average to just 23.95 since the start of 2019, with a passive strike-rate of 50.48 that does little to reflect his remarkable hand-eye co-ordination and range of strokes. Unless he gets a chance to improve his case in the second innings, he may be forced to hand over the gloves for the March trip to Sri Lanka.

Walking the walk

England have long talked about needing to make first-innings scores of 400 to build pressure in a game and here they backed up their Port Elizabeth effort of 499 for nine declared. The last time England passed the 400-run threshold in consecutive innings was March 2013, when they made 421 for six and 465 all out in New Zealand.

What they said

Mark Wood on his first six over extra-cover.

Bavuma’s burden

When Temba Bavuma came out to bat late in the day it was a highly pressurised situation – his side were 60 for four attempting to avoid the follow-on and it was his first innings back after being dropped. And yet he received the rapturous ovation, with the ‘Gwijo Squad’ bellowing a song for him and signs held aloft hailing him as a saviour. As the first black African batsman of note to play for his country, Bavuma carries huge reservoirs of hope and expectation with him to the crease but perhaps it is not always helpful.

What’s next

Day three of five. South Africa will need heavy rain over at least a couple of days to save them now but their first objective is to score the 113 runs they need to avoid their second successive follow-on. England merely want to get the party started.

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